The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

It’s Passover and Laurel, a junior in high school, her little brother and parents celebrate at their neighbor’s home.  Following the meal everyone decides to go to the ice cream shop for dessert.  Laurel and David, the neighbor’s son, both decide to forego the ice cream—Laurel to do homework and David to do whatever it is David does these days.  When they were little Laurel and David were good friends; however, upon growing up and entering high school they had grown apart.  The decision to skip dessert, after a painful family dinner, changed both of their lives forever.

Without Laurel and David, their parents and Laurel’s brother all fit into David’s father’s new car.  They go off happily to get ice cream and Laurel goes home to do her French homework.  Little does she know that that would be the last time that she would see her family alive, for a horrible car accident claims the lives of everyone except for David’s father, who is now in a coma. 

 Laurel and David handle their grief in very different ways.  Laurel goes through the motions of going to school and trying to participate and care about the SATs, homecoming dances and things typical high school girls are dealing with but finds that she just can’t care about those things anymore.  David runs away, leaving Laurel to care for his dog and look after his parents’ house. 

 If you enjoyed Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, you’ll also enjoy Jennifer Castle’s the Beginning of After where Laurel and David both have to figure out how to go on without their families.

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