The Beginning of After
by Jennifer Castle
This isn’t a bad book, although it’s not really a very deep one, and its hook–a girl embracing life after her family’s death–may really be its greatest weakness. It actually took awhile for there to be any discussion about Laurel’s grief or lack of it at all, to the point that I was thinking This IS supposed to be the main point of this book, right?
Here are a few things you might want to know about The Beginning of After:
1. The book cover is pretty.
2. It means well.
3. But contrary to what you might expect, this book is not really about grief at all. We are barely introduced to Laurel, her parents, her brother, and the Kaufmans when they are all killed (aside from Laurel) 12 pages into the book.
4. This book is more about dating. And if the guy who asked you to prom only did it because he feels sorry for you.
5. But oh noes, what do you do when you’re also interested in the guy whose dad killed your family?
6. This book did not make me cry. Or feel any particularly strong emotions at all.
7. I also did not finish reading it. I read 100 pages and then skimmed parts of the rest.
8. It is difficult to muster up much interest in the characters.
9. This book was not written by Sarah Dessen.
10. It was also not written by Gayle Forman.
It may not be fair to compare this book to the deeply poignant If I Stay or The Truth about Forever, both of which deal with similar topics in a much more meaningful way. But the truth of the matter is that even if those books didn’t exist, The Beginning of After would still be considered–at best–a mildly entertaining book that only touches on any genuine depth of emotion. The thing that probably bothers me most about it is that there’s so little internal dialogue, which is pretty important in a book like this one, and events seem to occur without smooth transitions between scenes.
This novel probably would have been better off if it had just set the story a few months after the accident. Because when something so tragic happens and the characters don’t spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about it or emoting over it, it’s really hard to care what happens to them. And really, it’s a crying shame when you pick up a book like this expecting to share in a character’s grief and joy and the best word you can use to describe the experience is “indifference.”
Release Date: September 6, 2011
Rated 2 out of 5 stars
30-Second Synopsis: A book whose hook–a girl embracing life after her family’s death–is really its greatest weakness, as the lack of exploration on this serious topic makes the rest of the book feel lightweight and shallow.