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The Beginning of After

The Beginning of After

4.2 109
by Jennifer Castle

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Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car


Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss—a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

Jennifer Castle’s debut novel is a heart-wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After Gayle Forman’s acclaimed If I Stay, books tackling the same topic—a girl surviving the death of her parents and brother in a car crash—face inevitable comparisons. And although there’s certainly room for more stories with this premise, Castle’s debut, while affecting, comes up short. Sixteen-year-old Laurel reluctantly goes to Passover dinner with her family and their neighbors, the Kaufmans, whose son, David, is an estranged childhood friend. After dinner, everyone except Laurel and David goes out for ice cream; only David’s father survives the subsequent accident, and he is left in a coma. While Laurel’s journey to recovery and her blossoming romance with David are compelling reasons to keep reading, the story never delivers the raw emotional truths expected. Laurel’s reactions to the accident get lost among other mini-dramas that pop up along the way, and the blunt descriptions of her feelings (as well as how early in the book the accident takes place, before the characters are really established) render her grief flat and generic. Too little “before” makes the “after” less wrenching. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
VOYA - Debbie Wenk
A car accident during an impromptu outing for dessert leaves two teenagers' worlds forever altered. Lauren and David had each wriggled out of the trip. The accident claims the lives of Lauren's parents and brother, and David's mother. The driver, David's father, is left in a coma with little chance of recovery. Once close as children, the teens had grown apart and the relationship is further strained by Lauren's anger at David's father for allegedly causing the accident. Both teens suffer survivor's guilt—each thinking that had they gone, the accident would not have happened. The aftermath finds Lauren wrestling with her grief as well as the interest people now take in her: the question, "How are you doing?" becomes an irritant to her. David is the only person who has any understanding of how she is feeling and the two have fleeting moments of companionship. The reader will find themselves as confused by David as Lauren; he is by turns surly, understanding, and perceptive. It is fascinating to watch these two young people try to make sense of their losses and struggle to figure out how to move on. Two other characters are thrown into the mix, Lauren's best friend , Meg, and Joe—a guy who only gets the nerve to ask out Lauren after the death of her family. Meg's family drama seems like an afterthought, but the friends' relationship rings true. While the ending is a bit predictable, the journey offers a complex look at the aftermath of a tragedy. Reviewer: Debbie Wenk
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Laurel is home doing her French homework while her parents and brother go out for dessert with the neighbors. A car accident kills everyone except the driver, her neighbor. Laurel's grieving is complicated by not knowing if the accident was the driver's fault (he had been drinking), and by a strained and complicated relationship with David, his son, who was not in the car either. With his mother dead and his father in a coma, David runs away and Laurel is left caring for his dog. Her grandmother moves in, and the story follows Laurel as she makes her way through senior year. Castle has created a strong and independent girl. Laurel struggles through a crisis even as she deals with more-typical teen problems. Two boys are love interests, but they are never Laurel's sole focus. She has her art; her college applications; a new job; and, most of all, her grief to deal with. Castle gives her a solid support system-a loving grandmother; an understanding guidance counselor; a sweet best friend; and a stereotypical, but well-intentioned, therapist. Perhaps all this support is why she copes so well. In fact, Laurel copes almost unbelievably well, breaking down and crying only a time or two throughout the entire 400 pages. The pace is slow, but the detailed writing and smart, realistically cool characters will be appealing to many girls. Offer this to teens who are waiting for the next Sarah Dessen book.—Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)
800L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Jennifer Castle's first novel, The Beginning of After, was named an American Library Association Best Fiction for Young Adults selection and a Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" Book. She wrote many unproduced movie and TV scripts before returning to her first love, fiction . . . but she's still hooked on film and the way we can find and tell our stories with images. She lives with her family in New York's Hudson Valley.

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Beginning of After 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of those books you can truly lose yourself in! Loved the characters. The emotion was very raw and real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When im reading it I picture me being Laurel which makes me more sad because I put myself in her shoes. Its a touching story and I cant put the book down. Occasionally i find myself reading random pages near the end bc im not pacient enough to wait for all the good stuff in the end. Haha. Love this book and i love the cover<3 Buy the book!! It has some romance.. like cute scenes with Joe.. at the end she and David do some stuff.. haha its a great sad life changing book.
Jenny_Geek More than 1 year ago
The most important thing to know about this book: HAVE TISSUES READY! Seriously, some parts of this book I was crying so hard I could barely see the words (I'm really glad I was home alone when I read this, otherwise my husband would have wondered why I was bawling in front of my ereader). The way Laurel's grief is written, so resonated with me and brought me back to when I was going through all the grieving over losing my grandmother. It's so real and so raw and I appreciated that the author kept it that way throughout the course of the book. It's true that when someone passes that it feels like life stops, which is how Laurel feels. She struggles with the concept that even though people die, life still moves forward. I felt like I really connected with Laurel through this story, which is why I cried so hard. She's young and having to deal with something no one should have to go through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was very realistic. It was also extremly sad. I only had two complaints with it, the main character was extremly intelligent as are ALL the heroines in this type of book. Average girls have bad things happen to them also and second, the exact cause of the accident is left up in the air. I could not quit reading this book. I had to know how it ended. It took me all night to finish it. It is about 400 pages long and is well edited. No sex, violence other than a car accident or cursing. There is a lot of confusion about growing up and making choices during times of extreme hardship. I usually avoid this type of pathos like the plague. I like to feel good after reading a book. This book is about a young Jewish girl losing her family in a car accident. For readers 14 and up. AD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the book it was amazing. Couldn't put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great, moving story that can truly mean a lot to anyone who has suffered loss in their life. It's a little slow at the end, but it is an amazing book. Laurel is just so strong and inspiring. I reccommend this to anyone. Especially if you're a fan of Sarah Dessen books, you'll love this.
Kimmiepoppins More than 1 year ago
Just the flap copy for this book sends chills up my spine. I want to believe that this story is all fiction, but I know better, there are kernels of horrific truth woven between the pages. Things like this and worse happen in life and I find that I'm drawn to these stories because they are the safest place that I can dance with my fears. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER is a lighter, dark book and I mean this as a compliment. The death of a family is not an easy subject to tackle, but Castle does it with honesty and optimism. Here are the words that I would use to describe this story verses what I often feel when I read darker, edgier themes. TBoA has... responsibility instead of blame survivors instead of victims consequences instead of carnage depth instead of hype Despite this, in-your-face topic, TBoA is a quiet book, where characters don't grow with a twisting and turning plot line--they develop and change at a realistic pace. They don't always make good decisions, but they never make &quot;wrong&quot; ones, because you have the time to deeply know what they are feeling and where they are coming from. And the ending was perfect, because it wasn't too perfect, making it just right. I loved THE BEGINNING OF AFTER and I can't wait to read Castle's next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutly loved this book! I want another one to come out to follow up laurels story during college. I think everyone should read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing book. Very well written with a great story line. I couldn't put this book down & read it in just two days. I can't wait to read more by Jennifer Castle.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But was really sad when it ended. I hope there will be a part 2 to this series with this couple.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it. I felt like the book related so much to what I went through and how I felt. The thoughts of the main charater were right on. I realized I wasn't the only one that had those thoughts. The book brought me to tears many times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can you imagine losing your whole family in one day? For the main character, Laurel, that&rsquo;s reality. Laurel is a 16 year old girl that is a junior. She is always studying for the SATs because at the time, getting into a good collage is her only priority. Her best friend is Meg, and they do everything together. Most of the story takes place at her house, school, and Ashland Animal Hospital. One afternoon, Laurel and her family went to their neighbors, the Kaufhmans, for dinner. After they had dinner everyone except Laurel and David went out to get desert. On the way there, they got in a car accident. Mr. Kaufhman was the only one who survived. Laurel losing her family isn&rsquo;t her only problem; she still has to deal with all the stares and whispers about her when she goes into public. Also, she still has to go back to school. At school she has to deal with prom, SATs, and drama. Her crush, Joe, asks her to prom. They have a perfect relationship until David comes into the picture. Soon she and David get close, very close. They help each other through life after they each lost someone. Then, she and Joe start to grow apart. Laurel loves Joe, but she starts to like David. So she has to pick between Joe and David. I would really recommend this book to teens. I loved this book because it is very exiting when she has to pick between Joe and David. Also, I like it because there is a great love story between her and Joe. This book is amazing because it teaches you how precious life is and how at any moment you could lose it. I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially teens.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am reading it again cause it is that kind of good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just started reading this book and it is pretty good so far. But, this book is really sad how her parents and her brother died in a car accident. I think its sad what Laurel is going through right now and this book is really good. It is also emotional for some readers in some parts of the book. I think this book is wonderful so far and i am totally continuing to read this book.   
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ughhhhhh its a horrible book im warning youuuu and its a waste of money!!!!!! Hollywood status
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dazzlamb More than 1 year ago
Laurel and her neighbour David are connected by the same tragic fate. She lost her parents and brother in a car crash. David lost his mother in the same accident, his father lives and is comatose, but he is the one who caused it. The moment their families are broken apart separates the before from the after. Laurel and David are both very young when they lose their families. Imagine the sadness and loss they are burdened with now. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER is about the person you were in a past life and the person you can become in the future. What does it take for your life to change radically? Jennifer Castle drew a realistic and touching portrait of the different ways to cope with your loss and the different ways of grieving. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER had me crying after only a few pages into the story and I felt just as affected as Laurel learning about her parents' death. Laurel and David are distancing themselves from each other, searching the other's company, grieving, remembering, hurting, learning to love again together. Their love story is a product of their mutual grieving process and can be described as impulsive, intuitive and rather subtle. 4/5 **** THE BEGINNING OF AFTER &ndash; This pensive portrait of teenagers grieving the death of their own families will take you on a journey through a wide spectrum of emotions. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER is a quiet and raw portrait of grieving and learning to live again. It realistically pictures how one single moment can affect people in many different ways. Jennifer Castle's writing is hopeful and promising and I'll make sure to pick up a copy of her next book, YOU LOOK DIFFERENT IN REAL LIFE, soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although this story was a great, leisure read, it was not quite what I was expecting. Laurel's situation is one full of challenges and struggles, so it is only natural that you would expect to read a story full of raw emotion. Unfortunately, I never felt those emotions while reading the book. Even though Jennifer Castle touched on Laurel's emotions in some of the chapters, I never got a real sense of the true internal struggles she was dealing with after losing her family. The story focused more on her relationships and college than it did on her grieving process. With that said, I loved the characters in the story! I see many qualities in Laurel that I also see in myself. I felt that I could easily relate to some of the struggles and stress she was having about school and the SATs. David's character was also a great addition to the story. He is first described as the typical 'bad boy&quot; that lives next-door, but when you get further into the book, you realize that he is much more than that; his bold and fearless attitude about life is what helps Laurel get trough her toughest times. Overall, I give this book three out of five stars because it was a great book to read with fascinating characters, but I wish it would have dug deeper into the emotions of Laurel and her grieving process. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was looking forward to reading this book, but i was very dissapointed. The story started out slow and the events written were often repetitive. I did not enjoy this book, and i would not reccomend it unless you were dying for something to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book yesterday and I thought it was terrific, heart-wrenching, funny, and all-around a great book to read. The story including the epilogue is 425 pages and I loved the book so much it took me around 4-5 days to read it. I am giving this a five-star rating because - even though I have not experienced what she went through - I still had a way of easily connecting with the main character, Laurel. I love all of the characters, the humor, the romance, and the main plot. I am an 11 year-old girl and I was able to understand the situations. Overall, I would recommend this book to people ages 13+.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago