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Jenuine Cupcakes

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The Beginning of After - Jennifer Castle A MUST read! This is a well written story about love, loss, the bonds of family, the journey of forgiveness and the discovery that life "after" tragedy is really how you choose to live it.The first thing that caught my attention about this book was the beautiful cover. The basis of this story, the tragic loss Laurel and David (two teens) experience presumably as a result of David's father, would seem to be extremely sad and depressing but that wasn't the case. The author, Jennifer Castle, does a great job of allowing the reader to walk through the grief process right alongside Laurel so you feel the rawness of her emotions but she infuses it with humor and grace. When it seems Laurel's just beginning to handle things, something small like a picture frame, or the knife block in the kitchen conjures up a memory of her family (like how each member put the knives away differently) and your heart breaks for her all over again. You feel her frustration when she's at school and just wants to be a "normal" teenager but has to endure the whispers and rumors about the accident. And you want to scream right along with her "I won't break! Try me!" as everyone (teachers included) seems to handle her like she's as fragile as glass. You also can't help but laugh as she finds herself "trapped" in the car with her grandmother during what she refers to as a mortifying conversation. Who hasn't been there, right? Despite the tragedy, Laurel does have a good support system like her best friend Meg and her Nana who comes to live with her after the accident. She's a good role model and even though Laurel, like most typical teens, doesn't always understand or see eye to eye with her, she does respect Nana. During one particularly difficult experience involving David, Nana gives Laurel some great advice, "If I can't change something, I don't waste energy on it." (That made me stop and think about all the energy I've wasted on stuff/people/things I can't change.) Nana is the one constant in Laurel's life now and mixes support with a little tough love when necessary. She also sets great examples of generosity, hospitality, selflessness and forgiveness for Laurel.For some reason, when I read about David, I kept picturing the actor from "Modern Family", who plays, "Dyan". :) Anyway, David and Laurel were once childhood friends but all that changed once he hit middle school. Now they're part of very different crowds and barely speak unless forced too out of obligation when their families get together. (They appear to be the only 2 Jewish families on their block and celebrate the Holy Days together) He comes across selfish, only concerned about himself and this seems to escalate after the accident which at times, causes Laurel more frustration and pain. Your heart goes out to him though when you remember he's left to deal with his comatose father whose held responsible (by everyone) for the deaths of Laurel's family as well as his own mother. You also have more compassion for him later on in the book... He deals with his own pain the best way he knows how and that's to run. Laurel and David are faced with the realization that there is life after tragedy and that their lives especially, will be forever intertwined. We see more of Laurel's struggle with this and how David fits into her life it but ultimately they both get to choose how that life "after" is lived.*Potential Spoiler: One of the main issues this story deals with is alcohol...the adults consume it and at times the teens do too. I hope that readers, young & old will pay attention to the the smaller details regarding alcohol in this story (beyond the obvious that underage drinking is never OK) like you don't have to be legally drunk for something bad to happen. All it takes is one drink too many.