The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle
From Goodreads: "Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.
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."
The subject: a girl struggling to recover from the deaths of her parents and brother. Laurel's voice is enjoyable and her character relatable, and I felt a lot of sympathy for her, especially right at the beginning after the accident.
The setting: the New York suburbs.
Shutter speed: fairly slow-moving, but smooth. It's character-driven, so there isn't a lot of action, but at the same time it reads really easily. However, it does lose momentum/direction in parts (especially the second half) and some of it feels repetitive.
What's in the background? Oh, the unresolved tension between Laurel and David... which got dragged out longer than I felt was really necessary. But I was rooting for them to get together!
Zoom in on: Laurel's relationship with her brother and parents. They die at the beginning so we don't get to know them that well, and I think a few more memories/flashbacks might have helped make them feel more real.
Anything out of focus? There's an almost-sex scene that I thought happened awfully suddenly in the progression of the relationship.
Also, Laurel seems to move on from her grief a bit more quickly than I might have expected.
Ready? Say... "Loss."
Click! 4 shooting stars. This book hasn't stuck with me and isn't particularly memorable, but I actually really enjoyed reading it at the time. I liked being in Laurel's head; she makes mistakes but learns from them, and her relationship with David is believably rocky as it changes and takes on different tones throughout. Overall, it's an easy read that feels very realistic.
Note: there is a bit of mature sexual content.
Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the publisher.