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

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Overview

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.

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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

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061985799
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/06/2011
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.50(d)
Lexile:
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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