Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of After
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.-Synopsis by Goodreads

I'm having a hard time writing this review as my thoughts about it are a bit of a jumbled mess. I apologize in advance.

Laurel has lost her entire family in a car accident and is trying to pick up the pieces of her life. I hate to say it but for a book about loss and dealing with grief, it didn't feel like there was enough grieving. Laurel seems to worry more about her friends, whether the cute guy is asking her out because he likes her or pities her and what her peers at thinking of her. Basically, she throws herself into normal teenage worries instead of dealing with the grief.

Laurel continues to be a good student, gets a job, and develops a blossoming romance in the aftermath of the accident. While, obviously people need to move on after a tragedy, I just felt she was juggling too much for someone in her state of mind. It felt unrealistic for her to even consider attending the prom just a few weeks after the accident. I guess I just wanted her to have a good cry, that emotional purge you need when you go through something awful, and I just felt like she didn't really get that. Sometimes you need to breakdown to get back up and Laurel didn't. There is one small moment where it appears that breakdown is coming and then, whoosh, we jump forward to her sitting in therapy. Like all the unpleasantness of grief was swept under the rug. If that's the intent, why write a book about grief?

It was a good book but it felt too contained. Laurel was too contained. I wanted her to cry, kick, scream, lash out and get angry. Not the little flutters of anger that we see in the book. No, I wanted her to get really, really angry. She deserved it. That girl deserved to have a few minutes of irrational anger at the entire situation and I felt she got cheated out of that to make room for a love triangle.

I don't know, maybe my experiences with grief are a little different and that explains why I didn't quite connect with this book.

*Disclaimer- I received a copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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