Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of After

Author: Jennifer Castle

Publisher: HarperTeen

2½ out of 5 stars

I thought it was going to be like any other day.  I thought that this would be just another day out of the year, and absolutely nothing special would happen.  Well, at least nothing that would impact my life in some immense way.  There was no reason for me to think that today something would happen that I would look back on and wonder how I didn’t see it coming.  That’s exactly what happened though.  Except, now when I look back, I don’t just wonder what happened… I wonder where it all went wrong.

Laurel hadn’t planned for this.  It wasn’t something she could plan for, really.  How was she supposed to know that her family would be killed in a car crash, but the driver who did it would still be alive?  That she would be the only one left.  That she might have been able to prevent all of this if she had gone with them.  That she could be living a normal life right now.  That she could tell her family she loved them one last time.  But she can’t.

They were simply going out for some ice cream.  It was an innocent errand that one normally wouldn’t think twice about.  And both the Meisner family and the Kaufman family hadn’t given it a second thought, for they were killed in a tragic car accident on the way.  But… not everyone died.  From the Meisner family, Laurel’s father, mother, and little brother, Toby, all didn’t make it.  From the Kaufman family Mrs. Kaufman was killed, and Mr. Kaufman is in a coma in the hospital.  Like Laurel, the Kaufman’s son David didn’t go with them.  What if they had?

In one instant Laurel’s life has changed.  How can she possibly go back to living a “normal” life?  How would she be able to when everyone around her is tip-toeing on eggshells?  Nothing is the same, and now she must decide which direction to go in.  Will she wallow in the past and hold on to what once was, or will she try and start anew and push the past aside?  All is revealed in Jennifer Castle’s stirring debut of one girl’s journey to rise from the wreckage in, The Beginning of After!

The Beginning of After is a bittersweet tale of one girl’s struggle to move on after the seemingly impossible has struck.  Filled with a tender beauty that will tug at your heart, this is one book that is filled with hope and the chance to start anew.  I received The Beginning of After as an advanced reader’s copy from YA in Bloom.*  Thank you so much to HarperTeen and everyone at the YA in Bloom event for providing me with a copy!  I think this would be a great read for any teen looking for a tale that will have them searching their heart for what truly matters.

The Beginning of After focuses on the death of Laurel’s family, and her new life that ensues because of it.  Falling back into the routine of things is difficult for Laurel at first, but she slowly does so with the help of her grandmother and her best friend.  However, despite the story being about the death of Laurel’s family, I felt it also focused immensely on Laurel’s budding relationship with the Kaufman’s son, David.  While reading, I felt like The Beginning of After was split between focusing on the family’s death, and the relationship that followed.  I would have liked to have seen the story go in either direction, as I felt that it was trying to go both ways, but that it wasn’t putting its full energy into either.  I would have liked to have seen this be a stunning book about the family’s death, or a stunning book about Laurel’s relationship with David.  The way in which it was done made me feel like the family’s death was more of a side note just to bring Laurel and David together, and that it really needed to make up its mind about which direction to take.

It wasn’t until David was introduced into the story a bit more that The Beginning of After picked up for me.  Now, I was starting to see a more fast-paced story, and the spotlight was now on David as well as Laurel.  Their relationship with one another was hesitant at first, yet they understood one another on a very deep level.  Not only had they both known each other since they were little kids, but now they had been forced to go through this horrible accident together- each dealing with it in their own way.

I think it might have been interesting to have seen The Beginning of After told from David’s perspective, and not only Laurel’s.  Since David became such a prominent character later on in the story, I think I would have been able to connect much more with the story in general, if I got more of an insight to what he was going through.  Not to mention, that it would have been very different to read about his road trips across the country, while everything he ever knew was back at home.

Jennifer Castle’s writing was both spunky and evocative.  She truly made Laurel feel like a teen, especially with Laurel’s sarcastic humor and her desire to know where her uncertain future would take her.  There were times when a smile would tug at the corners of my mouth, and other times when I my heart would drop at the turn of events.  It was very easy to feel for Laurel in the situation that she was in, but I felt that I couldn’t connect as easily with her as I would have liked to.

The title was tied in very nicely throughout the story, as it was present in both the beginning and the ending of the novel.  I felt that the title of the book, The Beginning of After, helped the novel come full circle.  When I finished reading, I was left with a sense of hope, and I couldn’t be more glad for the direction in which Laurel’s life is now going.

The Beginning of After is the story of one girl’s journey to now find what she really wants after all is lost.  Join Laurel, as she learns to spread her wings and take the plunge in, The Beginning of After!

-This is T.B. with Another Book Back on the Shelf…
Until Next Time, Keep Reading!

*I received this novel from the YA in Bloom event.  I received The Beginning of After as an advanced reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.  This book comes out September 6, 2011.  Thank you so much to HarperTeen and everyone at the YA in Bloom event for providing me with a copy!

Check out the author's website at


  1. Aw, it's a bummer that The Beginning of After wasn't a winner for you. I guess I'll need to find out for myself whether or not I'll like it! Great review, as always! :)

  2. Great review as always T.!

    I thought it sounded like you liked it, but it could have been better. I didn't know about this one, felt a little like If I Stay. Nothing can top that series. I might give this one a try. Thanks for the in depth review!


  3. Lauren M- Thanks Lauren! Hopefully you enjoy this one more than I did if you get the chance to read it. I can't wait to hear what you think of it!

    Buried In Books- I hope you still give this one a try, as I've read other reviews where bloggers gushed over how much they loved this one. I haven't read If I Stay, but I hear it's A-mazing, so I definitely can't wait to give it a try!


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