Merry Wanderer of the Night + YA

Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle was a book that I should have loved. It's Contemporary, it's about loss and grief and a girl trying to come to terms with that, and it should be full of emotion and emotional conflict.

And that right there is why I think I'm conflicted. I should have loved this one. It should have been full of emotion. But, at least for me, it wasn't. And I didn't. That's not to say I didn't like it. I did. There was nothing... wrong with the book, but it just didn't connect for me.

For some reason, I've always been drawn to this type of book. Books where the main character is forced to deal with a lot, often more than they should logically or emotionally be able to handle, and then we watch as they struggle through it and grow even stronger because of it. I could go on and on about the books I've read with this theme. They are mostly contemporary, but I've found that pretty much all of my favorite fantasy novels contain this same theme. It's such a powerful theme for me to read about.

I just didn't really... feel it with this book. None of the emotions really felt genuine to me. Laurel just lost her parents and her younger brother in a car accident. If I were to lose even one family member, I would be devastated. I remember what it was like when my grandpa died. I was a mess & I cried. All the time. If I come across a picture of him unexpectedly, my eyes STILL smart a bit. I can't imagine how much worse it would be if I were to lose everyone at once.

Initially, the emotions were there for me. Laurel was devastated. She blames herself, plays the what-if game over and over and over and she blocks a lot of it out — withdrawing from the pain mentally & forcing it away so she doesn't break down. But then she goes back to school, and OMG what if this boy likes me?! Wait... WHAT?! I'm really sorry... But I've been a teenage girl. I was a teenage girl about 4 years ago. And I don't know one single person, girl or boy, teenage or otherwise who would actually care that a random boy they kinda thought was cute might want to ask them to prom. Me personally, I might have thought about it, for about two seconds, but I would not have obsessed over it.

There were times when the pain Laurel was feeling was almost an afterthought. It's really hard for me to say here that her grief and emotion didn't seem genuine, because everyone really does grieve differently. But I just didn't buy it. It just didn't seem... real to me.

I am also going to admit right now that this has got to be the worst inclusion of a love-triangle into a story EVER. I don't particularly like love-triangles, especially since it's almost always really clear who they will end up with, & the added love interest just feels like drama to be dramatic. But here, where the novel is supposed to be about learning to get back into your life, and deal with your grief? To play the love-triangle card? Please stop...

I also do have to admit that I am not an animal person... Laurel is. So there is a lot of animal talk in this book, and that is something that I just don't really connect with, so I lost that connection with Laurel too. Mentions of pets and things are fine but the amount of time spent in this story with animals was, I am sure, for Laurel very healing. And I'm sure that many animal lovers out there will feel that too. For me, I was just kind of bored with all the animal stuff. But that one's on me, not so much the author or characters.

Overall, the way I feel about this is that if you read a lot of this style book already, it's probably not going to be anything that really stands out to you. It's a good book, but at least for me, there was nothing particularly remarkable about it. I do think, that if you don't read a lot of books dealing with this level of grief and emotional trauma, I can easily see this being a book that might really move you. So, if you don't normally read books like this, give it a shot. It might be the book that sparks a desire to read more like it.

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Review: The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle + YA