It isn't often that a book makes me cry. The few that have are those that have heartbreaking conclusions. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER had me sobbing right from the start. And not just one time...Wow. What an intense debut novel. Comparisons have been made between the author and Sarah Dessen and , though I'm a huge fan of Dessen's work, I felt Castle's writing had a slightly different feel... almost like Castle's writing had more emotional depth. Much of this was subtle; one carefully chosen word would make my breath catch and eyes water.I love a book with a good romantic story line, but I'm not sure I'd say that this is a characteristic that clearly identifies this book. The main character does have romantic counterparts, but they aren't a main focus - which makes sense. After all, Laurel has just lost her family... She's got a lot more going on than whether or not a boy likes her. Sure, she still thinks about it, but there are other things that require her attention as well. So, while I usually prefer my novels to have romance, I actually liked the fact that it wasn't a focus in THE BEGINNING OF AFTER... I don't think it would have been fitting at all.I'll be reading subsequent novels by Jennifer Castle... She's definitely a new contemporary YA voice to watch.