Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: The Beginning Of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

Pages: 432
Publisher: HarperTeen
Published: September 6th, 2011
IBSN:  9780061985799

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. 

The Beginning Of After is compared to If I Stay and The Truth About Forever, two incredibly emotional, beautiful books that show realistic grieving. If it were me, I would have contrasted them instead.

Within the first 20 pages, Laurel's entire immediate family is killed in a car crash. Her whole family is gone. She doesn't have a family anymore. But for this, Laurel's tone isn't as emotional as you would expect. Sure, she'll occasionally be reminded of her family and tell us she feels sad, but there is hardly any of that sadness in her voice as she tells the story.

We can't mourn her family either, because we never got to know them. We got less than 10 pages in the present-tense narration with them, and our flash-backs to them were brief and few and far between.

The story was in a writing style that didn't strike me as remarkable, but made what was taking place clear and reading it fast. The writing was smooth, told a story well, but didn't create or emphasise a distinct voice that I find necessary for a good character-driven novel.

A story about such an commonly-written-about subject as death and bereavement needs a unique flair and emotional prose to stand out from the crowd, and The Beginning Of After lacked in both of these qualities.

I give The Beginning Of After a 3 out of 5.