Friday, August 12, 2011

review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

pub date: September 6, 2011
publisher: HarperTeen
pages: 432
source: NetGalley
appeals: death, family, contemporary, realistic fiction,
content: a heavy make out scene

I had the hardest time not comparing this book to If I Stay by Gayle Forman, at least in the beginning. Which really wasn't fair because they aren't similar except for the family dynamic (mother, father, brother) and what happens to them (they die in a car accident). This book doesn't answer the question, "should I stay?" like Forman's, it instead answers the question, "I'm here, how do I deal?" 

This was a great book. I had a hard time putting it down. I wanted to know what would happen next. I thought Castle handled the situation and difficulties of Laurel's world changing really well. The writing flowed, and though this is a long book, it didn't feel like it. It read really quickly.

I appreciated the romance in the novel. There were two boys, but I didn't feel that it was a love triangle. Laurel's relationship with both of them were realistic and real and Laurel's feelings for them changed and evolved as she grew as a character. I liked how real it felt.

Laurel was a sympathetic and likable character and I felt for her plight. But even as I write that, I felt the telling of her story was very much on the surface, and didn't delve deep. I never felt deeply her pain. I wasn't attached to her family. There were memories Laurel shared, but they weren't deep enough to evoke an emotional response from me.

I liked this book a lot, but I wanted more. I wanted to feel more than I did.  

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.

Fans of emotionally true and heartfelt stories, such as Sarah Dessen's THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER and IF I STAY by Gayle Forman, will fall in love with Jennifer Castle’s incandescent debut novel...a heart wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment.

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