Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen

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.  - Goodreads.com

This is just the type of story I like to see in a debut novel.  Laurel's story was simple but emotionally engaging for me.  Imagine losing all but one member of your family in an instant.  The emptiness you would feel, and the total displacement, not knowing now where your place in the world should be.  We tend to define ourselves partly by those people who are most involved with us, the members of our family.  To lose them all probably brings with it a feeling that you've lost a part of yourself. 

Jennifer Castle did a fantastic job conveying that loss in this book.  There was anger where you would expect anger, and tears where you would expect tears.  Watching Laurel work her way through the loss she's suffered, slowly but surely trying to pull a new life together and go on to a future that suddenly seems to unknown is both emotional and scary.

Part of this struggle is learning forgiveness toward someone she feels is to blame for the tragedy, and also part of it is also learning to let people in.  Her relationship with David, who is a large piece of this tragic puzzle, is slow to build, but worth the wait.  They deal with matters in different ways, but it was brilliant getting to watch them do so.

Jennifer Castle's writing is honest and open.  I had no trouble at all sinking into this story, keeping pace, and getting invested in what happens to Laurel and David.  This was a very simple, quiet, but emotionally tugging story.  Great opening book for what is sure to be a great writing career for Jennifer Castle.

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