Publication date: 6th September
My rating: 4 out of 5
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 Beginning Of After was a moving and emotional read which tugged at my heartstrings the whole way through. It's the heart wrenching story of sixteen year old Laurel trying to comes to terms with losing her parents and younger brother in a car accident which also killed local not-so-bad-boy-really David's mother and left David's father, who was driving the car (and may or may not have been drinking) in a coma.
A very emotional read, it had me alternating between crying buckets when Laurel had to deal with emotionally crippling daily reminders of her family whilst glancing at coats hung up at the door and the painful memories simple things like how knives are replaced in the kitchen evoke, to hope as I rooted for David and Laurel to somehow get through their grief and anger and be there for each other. Whereas Laurel had the support of her Nana, who moved in to care and support Laurel and put on a brave face on a daily basis for Laurel's benefit whilst crying herself to sleep at night (that made me cry too) David on the other hand had no-one and struggled to stay and watch over his father who caused the accident. David and Laurel's barely there relationship is very gradual and played out at times through postcards and emails from David to Masher his dog that Laurel took in and cared for as David moved from city to city trying to cope with his grief and anger.
One of the most heart breaking parts for me was when Laurel attempted to go back to school and finds that everyone is treating her differently and tip toeing around her, when Laurel wants just to be normal again. I didn't really like Joe the potential love interest from school, who I thought felt sorry for Laurel and although I knew he was just trying to reach out to her as he had lost a close family member previously, he just irked me despite being a good guy. All along I was just rooting for David to come through for Laurel.
Despite crying buckets throughout it wasn't a depressing book it was just very very emotional and so well written that I didn't find it a difficult read despite the subject matter. I thought it was a beautiful and realistic story about dealing with grief and anger, about forgiveness and moving on. Thanks to Harper Teen and Net galley for the opportunity to read The Beginning of After.