Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REVIEW: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

When you hear that Jennifer Castle's The Beginning of After is about a girl whose parents and little brother die in a car crash, you might think that it sounds a lot like If I Stay. But let me clear that up - though a few very basic facts of the premise are similar, this is a completely different book, both in tone and content. This one is focused on how Laurel starts to pick up the pieces and figure out what she can and should do with her life once her family is gone, and how her relationships change with the people who are left, including her best friend, her grandmother, her crush, and the bad-boy neighbor whose family is also involved in the tragedy. Castle also does a great job of showing how people's attitudes toward Laurel change, both individually and as a community, as she becomes instantly notorious as The Girl Whose Family Died. There was a little less romance than I expected based on some reviews I'd read, but that was actually completely fine, as it made sense for that to be on a back burner for Laurel given the circumstances. And the ending was satisfying and hopeful without being too sentimental or pat. This was an absorbing, haunting read. Highly recommended.

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