Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

From Goodreads: 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. 

My Rating: 2.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: I’ve always been interested in books dealing with hard subjects like grief, abuse, etc. So when I heard that Jennifer Castle’s The Beginning of After was available on NetGalley, I requested it immediately.

Unfortunately, The Beginning of After wasn’t what I expected. Rather than finding myself in tears, I struggled to finish the book because I felt emotionally detached from the characters. It’s not that the writing was bad, but since Laurel’s family is killed right in the beginning of the novel and she doesn’t reflect about them that much, I felt like I barely knew them and couldn’t really mourn their loss. In fact, Laurel tends to avoid her emotions, dealing with her grief by remaining stoic for the most part – she does break down occasionally – and rarely thinking about her family. While I didn’t expect her to stop living, things like prom and dating probably wouldn’t be really high concerns for me if I had lost my entire family.

Speaking of dating, neither of the guys in The Beginning of After appealed to me. Joe was kind of boring – the one remarkable thing about him was that he drew people as comic book characters – and it seemed like the only reason Laurel was interested in him was because he provided her with a shot at normalcy. David on the other hand was a jerk. Sure he seemed to understand Laurel in a way that nobody else could and has a history with her that we only get glimpses of; but after Mr. Kaufman becomes comatose, David stays in the hospital for a bit and then shirks all his responsibilities by hitting the road so that he can be anonymous. I understood his urge to get away from everything, but trying to abandon his dog didn’t make David a great guy in my eyes.

If you’re in the mood for a novel like The Beginning of After, I’d highly recommend reading Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and its sequel Where She Went instead.

The Beginning of After will be released by HarperTeen on September 6, 2011. 

Comments About the Cover: It’s very pretty! The girl looks closed off and appears as if she’s thinking about something serious. Now if only Laurel had contemplated about her family that much, I’d be happy.

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (HarperTeen) for free via NetGalley.


  1. He tries to abandon his dog?! Ugh, that's horrible. Sorry this one was a let down for you because of the characters. I pretty much hate David already too so I think I'll skip this one. Thanks for the review!

  2. Awww, that's too bad... I really enjoyed The Beginning of After. Sure, I was sad that he had to leave his dog behind... but I didn't think he was in a good position to take responsibility so I didn't take it as hard as you did. I don't know, I liked how Laurel tried to bring some normalcy back in her life instead of only focusing on the past.

    I guess we just had really different opinions this time, lol. Usually, we're right on the same page. :)

    Oh, and The Beginning of After's release date is September 6... not August... ^.~

  3. Oh that is disappointing. I have read a lot of mixed reviews for it saying the same thing about Laurel and the guys. Great honest review :)

  4. He tries to abandon his dog? I'm already not a big fan of his just based on that! I know that's probably not the part I should have focused on in your review, but I can't help it:) I don't think I'll be in a big hurry to read this one since it's hard to connect to the characters and that's always my favorite part.

  5. It's hard to get into a book when you're emotionally detached from the characters, so I know exactly where you're coming from. I just read a positive review for this one, and now I'm not so sure anymore. Thanks for the honest review!

  6. I had a similar reaction as you did to this one. In a book like this you need to feel emotionally connected to the characters, and that just didn't happen for me with Lauren! Also, the boys were very disappointing.

  7. In had been hearing good things about this book, but for some reason I still wasn't sure if I was interested enough to get it when it comes out. Thanks for the honest review!

  8. GAH! Who would ever abandon their dog?

    Funny, as I was reading your review, I immediately thought of IIS, after you mentioned that she lost her family but her reaction was unemotional. Then you recommend it at the end.

    I just read a review for this one earlier that really liked the book. I like comparing both opinions. To me, it now seems like a completely different book y'all read. LOL

    Now I may skip this one and just re-read IIS. :)

  9. I enjoyed this one more than you did but I can definitely see where you are coming from. I found myself getting so annoyed with Laurel!! And I didn't like Joe that much either. =/ Didn't even mention him in my review. LOL

  10. I'm a little suprised by your thoughts since The Beginning of After sounded like it had so much promise. I always thought this would be a book that would have me crying buckets but I guess its hard to feel for the characters if you're not feeling for them.

  11. That dude is harsh. Nobody should try to abandon their dog!
    I think I've read somewhere that this was going to be the next If I Stay... I lost interest on it immediately after that. I requested this on NetGalley and got appropved but I think I'll pass on this.

  12. He tries to abandon his dog?!? Awful.

    The rest of the book sounds like it misses the mark in all areas. I don't usually like these books much anyway, but I'll definitely be passing now.

  13. What a great review!
    I have to admit that the reasons you gave are all very justified and I can see it may be hard to connect with the characters.


I love comments and will reply back via either email or stopping by your blog. Please note that this is an award-free zone.