The Beginning of After: review

July 2, 2011 2 star books, jennifer castle, realistic fiction, Wendy 15

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.

15 Responses to “The Beginning of After: review”

  1. Pam

    DNF reviews are common. There is nothing wrong with a DNF review, the book didn’t work for you at 50 or 100 or 300 pages? who cares the bookbloggerpolice?

  2. The Holy Terror

    Lol, noooo, I forgot my profile was still set to before I moved. You can’t know my real name! I must post anonymously to feel cool.

    But seriously, debate is great and all, but when you come on someone’s personal blog and tell them they’re not reviewing things “right” or that their opinion doesn’t matter, you’re just trying to stir the pot.

    It’s great that other people love this book, but they should say why they love it, not that the reviewer is reading it “wrong.”

  3. Wendy Darling

    Thanks Shannon.

    Dragging this discussion out about this topic just makes it seem as if I disliked this book much more than I did. I’m sure that there will be readers who like it, and I am happy for them and for the author if that’s the case. I find it surprising that anyone would presume to say that they have a right to set forth standards for anyone else’s blog, however, particularly when it’s an informal/unpaid/unsolicited review.

  4. Shannon

    Reviewing a book you haven’t read completely isn’t unfair to anyone. Telling someone they don’t have a right to their opinion is unfair. If you don’t agree with people reviewing books they didn’t finish, then read different reviews.

    I, personally, don’t take into account reviews of books I want to read that the reviewer hasn’t finished. That doesn’t mean I go on every review like this and start telling them their opinion isn’t valid. Instead, I move on.

    It is a completely valid point if the reviewer couldn’t bring themselves to finish the book – that means there is something inherently wrong with it. It is then up to you to decide if it’s worth checking the book out, but not if the opinion of the reviewer is “right” or not.

  5. Wendy Darling

    Thanks for the anonymous comment.

    How is it unfair if I’ve stated up front where I stopped reading? It’s the reader’s choice whether he or she wants to a. continue reading the review b. trust that opinion and/or c. read the book anyway. I don’t write for an outlet and this wasn’t written for a blurb, so my review practices are my own. If yours are different, then that’s your prerogative.

    I could easily have pretended to finish the book and written pretty much the same review without anyone being any the wiser. But that’s not my style.

  6. 90f3451e-a6a3-11e0-a26a-000bcdcb471e

    I’m going to have to disagree with everyone on this topic. Sorry if i’m going off topic on this review wendy. To be honest I think it’s unfair to review a novel you haven’t read straight to the end. It unfair to the author and to the readers who are considering it. When reading a review i’m not looking for someone who only read half the novel i’m looking for someone who read the entire thing and has a solid opinion on it. I’m sure other review readers do to. In my opinion that isn’t enough to tell me what the whole novel was about which is why people typically seek out to read book reviews. I see no difference between you and a quote on quote professional book reviewer who only reads the first few chapters and thinks they have the right to give out their opinion on whether or not the book was good or bad.

  7. Wendy Darling

    Thanks, I appreciate that Lee723. But now I’m looking at my previous post and I’m gritting my teeth over the use of “than” when it should have been “then.” *sigh* Oh, well.

  8. Lee723

    Very honest review, Wendy.
    And you CAN write a review for a book that you haven’t finished. What if the book was dreadful but you still gave it a chance?
    Are you gonna tell me I need to suffer through something for hours because I need to read it ALL through to get what the author is trying to say?
    I think not. If the author couldn’t say what needed to be said in 100 pages, it wasn’t worth finishing. I don’t blame you. You gave it a chance. You put in the effort. That’s all you can do.

  9. Wendy Darling

    Katie, I read 100 pages and skimmed the rest. I don’t leave ratings or write reviews for books where I give up too soon, but when I’ve read this far, I’ve given it more than a fair shot. I also gathered enough of an impression to explain why this book didn’t work for me and I was up front about where I stopped. If your policy is different, than more power to you. I’m afraid that I have too many books I want to read to spend several more hours on one that I’m not enjoying.

  10. Wendy Darling

    Thanks so much for your comments, ladies! I’m curious what you would think of this, especially as it compares to Gayle Forman’s work.

    I just read a Sarah Dessen book (the one linked in the review) for the first time, Kaye, and I was actually very pleasantly surprised. It’s a book about everyday life, but one filled with a lot of depth and emotion.

  11. kaye (paper reader)

    I was hoping this would be more than that; it’s a shame that it’s not. To be honest, I’ve never ready any Sarah Dessen, either, but I don’t think they’re something that would work for me.

  12. Nomes

    love the review wendy

    i do like the cover of this but it’s certainly not high on my priority list (thanks for taking one for the team ;)