Thursday, September 8, 2011

Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle 
Published: September 6th, 2011
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 432
Source: ARC via Netgalley
Challenge: Debut Author Challenge 2011, 100+ Reading Challenge, 350 Page Books Challenge
Other: NA
Buy the book: Bookdepository

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.

In her debut novel, Jennifer Castle covers tough subjects: despression, death and dealing with the loss of relatives. Laurel is trying to deal with the fact that her family died in a car crash but is struggeling to pick up the pieces. She could have been in that car, going off to eat dessert with her family after dinner with the Kaufmans, but she decides to go home to study instead.

I'm going to be honest with you and say that I have no idea how to rate this book. The subject of depression is familiar to me and close to my heart. I've went through a really dark period of my life not so long ago and I was hoping that this book would show how difficult it is to battle depression. However, I found it hard to feel with Laurel. Laurel was numb, most of the time. And I get that - it's the shock that the life as you know it is over, and that you have to pick up the pieces and make the most of it. But after the numbness, Laurel got angry. At least, that was what it said in words, but I didn't feel it. The words didn't come across. In her angry moments towards David, she wasn't half as angry as she should have been. I felt like Castle may have hold back in terms of letting out the emotions that come along with dealing with her loss, and that's a shame.

Another thing that bothered me was that there wasn't really a climax that was worked up to during the entire story. Sure, it has a plot and I really appreciate the message that Castle wants to tell us, but there wasn't much more. I was hoping there would be some kind of event that Laurel (or David for that matter) was working towards. But there wasn't and that made it feel like a bit of an anticlimax. The story continued at a rather flat line and didn't have many ups or downs.

BUT don't let my review scare you. I've heard from others that they really like the book and personally, I really liked Castle's writing style. I read this 400+ page book within 24 hours so her writing definitely kept me reading. I would have loved to see more extreme emotions, as I like to call it, like extreme sadness, extreme anger or maybe extreme joy by acting like you're doing fine (but obviously, you aren't).

Writing about depression is a difficult subject and I haven't seen it done that often in YA, so I am really glad to see that Castle touches such a delicate subject. The message is clear: "happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light."

My overall rating:

Three stars for The Beginning of After. There where was nothing, there is now an After.

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