Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Beginning of After

Author: Jennifer Castle
Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins)
Released: September 6, 2011
Genre: YA Contemporary
Series: No
Source: Library
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.
Laurel's voice throughout the whole book is very strong, so that you really feel what she's going through. For most of the book, she's actually pretty numb and denying things, suppressing thoughts. Because we hear it in her voice, the narrative gets dragged down a bit as we wait for her to start admitting her feelings. But when she does that, it's a wham and everything starts happening at once. A big scene, and the aftermath where she begins to face the consequences of the accident and how it has affected and will continue to affect her life.

Laurel's relationships with both Joe and David are really nicely portrayed, the arc of each one flowing seamlessly and connecting with her at the various stages of grief. The end of this plotline, when Laurel breaks it off with Joe and commits to David, felt a little quick to me, like it happened so quickly that I wasn't sure at what moment it actually happened. But lack of "moment" aside, the progression of both relationships leads naturally to its conclusion. I like that both guys are decent guys, though it's more obvious with Joe than with David at first, of course.

With the grief cycle, Laurel trying to get her life back on track, and her relationships, both with the boys and her friend Meg, this is a good book, if lacking spark.

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