The Beginning of After

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The Beginning of After is a story of hope and healing from Jennifer Castle, a powerful new voice in teen fiction.

When Laurel’s family dies in a horrific car accident, she struggles to put her life back together. She is now connected to David Kaufman, who lives down the block, and who lost his mother in the same crash. Both of their lives change—but not in the ways that they thought…

Castle blends tragedy with romance, teen angst, and wit in The Beginning of After, a bittersweet, powerful debut novel that stands as a testament to how people can survive the unthinkable.

Curriculet Details
90 Questions
99 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for middle school students contains interactive videos exploring figurative language and characterization, as well as annotations describing foreshadowing, flashback, catharsis, and theme. Students will explore the themes of dealing with death and forgiveness. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Chapter One

Here the narrator is using a metaphor to express how much she doesn't want to go wherever they are about to go. Listen to the video for a quick review of figurative language.  (This annotation contains a video)
Passover is a Jewish tradition which commemorates when God "passed" over the houses of the Israelites while cursing the homes of the Egyptians. This detail tells you that the main character is Jewish. 
To describe her relationship with David, the narrator uses what type of figurative language? 
These lines are examples of indirect characterization. This is when the writer reveals the traits of a character indirectly through dialogue, thoughts, actions, or the thoughts and reactions of other characters. Watch the video for a more in depth explanation of indirect characterization versus direct characterization.  (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following sentences contains an example of personification? 

Chapter Two

Now you should understand the title The Beginning of After. What has happened that marks the beginning of the conflict in this story? 
Clinique is a high end cosmetic brand only sold at retail stores. This detail shows that Nana has rather expensive taste and cares about her looks. 
Chanel No. 5 is an expensive perfume. Again, it's a subtle detail that characterizes Nana as someone who spares no expense on beauty products.  

Chapter Three

Emily Dickinson is a famous American poet who lived during the 19th century. Many of her poems were about death and immortality. 
There seems to be an important internal conflict developing within Laurel that can best be described as 
You've probably inferred that David is going to be an important character in this novel. Give two reasons that support this inference using specific details from the text. 
From these lines you may predict that Laurel will later blame Mr. Kaufman for the death of her family and take out her anger on David. 
When a writer chooses a first person narrator, it allows the reader to truly connect with how the character feels. Laurel is a teenager, and you may be able to relate very easily to her thoughts about her parents. 
Laurel is beginning to blame ____________________ . 
The narrator uses language here that wouldn't be as mainstream 20 years ago. The slang labels of "emo" and "goth" are used today mostly to refer to a certain type of fashion/lifestyle of some teenagers. It is one of many subtle details that sets this story in the present time, making it realistic fiction.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter Four

Matzoh is like a flat bread that is traditionally eaten during the week long Jewish holiday of Passover. 
An Ivy League School means one of eight prestigious private schools in the Northeastern United States. Some famous Ivy League schools are Yale, Harvard, Brown, and Columbia. Below is a picture of Yale.  (This annotation contains an image)
You can infer from these lines that Mr. Churchwell is most likely feeling ________________________. 
Do you think this is a healthy way for Laurel to deal with her grief? 
This almost sounds like a stereotype of the "pretty, popular" girl in high school. The stereotype usually also includes being mean or conceited.  (This annotation contains an image)
Which sentence best describes what this simile means? 
The author is dropping hints here which is a literary device known as foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is when the writer suggests what may happen later in the story. Critical readers can usually pick up on foreshadowing and make predictions. 

Chapter Five

Vengeful means wanting revenge. This shows that Laurel is having a hard time feeling any sympathy for David or his dad? 
David and Laurel have all of the following in common except ? 
It's not unusual for childhood friends to grow apart when they get older--especially if there is a difference in age. 

Chapter Six

Several times so far in this novel, the narrator has given you some background information about events that happened in the past. This literary device is called flashback. Watch this video for a further explanation of how flashback works in fiction.  (This annotation contains a video)
Laurel remembers both of her parents sacrificing things they love for their children.  
Each time Laurel begins to grieve over her parents and brother she _________________________________. 
DWI means Driving While Intoxicated. Usually when people are hospitalized after a car accident, their blood is tested for the alcohol level. 
In most works of fiction, the protagonist goes through many obstacles and conflicts. These events make up the rising action in the plot. What new conflict is Laurel now facing? 
Flaunting something means you are unafraid of people seeing. It actually implies that you want people to see. 
Why do you think things like the prom and the SAT tests help Laurel and make her feel "hopeful"? 

Chapter Seven

Using context from the story, what does resilient mean as it is used here? 
Someone with a lanky build is tall and skinny with long limbs.  
What makes Joe's gesture different from everyone else who has shown sympathy and concern to Laurel? 
Based on the context, we understand that the word winced shows that Laurel  ____________________. 
This shows that Nana cares about social conventions like being polite. 
You can infer from David's responses here that he's feeling  ________________. 
Based on what you know about her, why do you think Nana looks horrified at the thought of people seeing Laurel as a "freak"? 
The Hundred Year's War was a series of conflicts between England and France during the 14th and 15 century. 
Universal experiences are present in most stories and they often have something to do with the theme. Dealing with the death of loved ones is a universal experience. Listen to the video on theme and think about what may be an emerging theme in this story.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter Eight

Laurel realizes that she _____________________________. 
Why do you think Laurel is referring to herself here in third person (using "she" and "her' instead of "I" and "me")? 
Even the dress shop owner is treating Laurel differently because of her loss. 
This is an example of an allusion. An allusion is when a writer makes a point by referring to something well-known in culture like a painting, movie, historical event, etc. Watch the video for a deeper understanding of literary allusions.  (This annotation contains a video)
The score of 790 on critical reading is important to Laurel because _____________________________. 
Comparing the counselor to a telemarketer shows how annoyed Laurel is with this phone call. Telemarketers make a living by calling people and trying to sell them something. 

Chapter Nine

What is Laurel worrying about here? 
Explain why you think "proms weren't David's thing." 

Chapter Ten

This sentence contains what type of figurative language? 
Orion's Belt is a constellation that looks like this. (This annotation contains an image)
David is being bitter and putting Laurel down as if going to the prom is "uncool" in his world and that he's disappointed in her. 
What does David mean here? 
This is an example of what literary device? 
Laurel is referring to the term "vegetable" which is sometimes used to describe a person whose brain no longer functions yet the body is still alive. 
Explain what you think is happening here with Laurel. 

Chapter Eleven

What do you think Laurel means when she says, "It felt like cheating"? 
This is an example of alliteration, meaning when two or more words begin with the same consonant. Alliteration is a sound device that writers use to make sentences, poems, or lines in a song or speech sound better.  
Explain why you think it would be good for Laurel to work for this camp. 
This shows that Nana is very concerned about Laurel, and like a dog, is hyper-sensitive to Laurel's every move. 
Chicken is a game when both opponents hold out. The object of the game is not to yield to the other player. Whoever gives in first is the loser. So Laurel is suggesting that neither of her parents ever wiped down the counters. 
Which of the following is not a detail that signifies how things have changed in Laurel's household? 
What do you think Laurel is thinking about doing? 

Chapter Twelve

You know enough about Laurel by this point in the story to realize that the dramatic events of the previous days have nearly forced her to go see this grief counselor, even though she has so strongly resisted it up until now.  
This sentence contains what type of figurative language? 
This is a common type of therapy to show a patient a picture or word and have the patient respond with the first thoughts that come to mind. 
Explain why you think Suzie is frowning. 
Which of the following themes does this sentence convey? 
Laurel wants to avoid people who know her so she doesn't have to deal with the unspoken tension and the special way everyone is treating her. 
You may be making some predictions now about what is wrong with Masher. You also may be considering how taking care of Masher connects with Laurel's grief. 
Based on this description, Laurel's house is ____________________. 
Buying lots of furnishings from Pottery Barn suggests that the Dills are very chic and don't mind spending money for the latest trends. 
Laurel uses this idiomatic saying to express ____________________. 
Quiz #1--Chapter 1-12 

Chapter Thirteen

Explain how the poem "Condolence" relates to the central theme and conflict of this novel. 
Click on the link and read the poem "Condolence" by Dorothy Parker.  (This annotation contains a link)
Based on its context here, what do you think the word stealth means? 
Since we only get Laurel's point of view in this story, we must always infer what other characters are thinking. Based on his physical description here, what do you think is going on with David? 
You may begin to notice that David and Laurel are dealing with their grief differently. Laurel has to force herself to go out while David never wants to go home. 
Based on its context, the word wistfully probably means___________________________. 
"Putting down" means to euthanize or putting the animals to sleep with a lethal injection. It is what many animal shelters have to do when there are too many strays that can't find homes. 

Chapter Fourteen

"Catharsis" is when we can release emotional tension by "purging" or purifying ourselves through some act or just by watching something (a movie or play) that is very emotional. It often suggests renewal or restoring emotional well-being. In this clip from the movie "Terms of Endearment," a mother is sitting in the hospital with her dying daughter and her son in law. Most people cry when they see this scene.  (This annotation contains a video)
"Morphed" means to change shape. The Greek root "morph" means shape. 
Why do you think Laurel is concerned with what she's wearing?  
David seems to be the one person that Laurel does not have to explain herself to. He is going through the same ordeal as she is, so he understands. 
List three things that Laurel is doing that show she is on the road to recovery. 

Chapter Fifteen

Which of the following details does not show Laurel's interest in David? 
If you remember, when David and Laurel sat together on the bench outside of the vet's office, they shared a comfortable silence and she felt close to him. She's comparing this to feeling nervous and uncomfortable now with Joe. 
What internal conflict might Laurel be facing very soon? 
Andrew Lloyd Webber is a British composer and musician who wrote the music for many well known musicals like The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, and Evita.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter Sixteen

Based on earlier details in the novel, what can you infer Meg might need a break from? 
Can you predict why David may want to board Masher at this vet? 
Whose way of dealing with grief do you think is healthier, David's or Laurel's? 

Chapter Seventeen

This sentence is an example of what type of figurative language? 
Based on context bequeathed probably means _____________________. 

Chapter Eighteen

Who is David really writing to? Explain your thinking. 
We can infer here that this condo at the beach means a lot to Nana and shows that her life has been dramatically altered just like Laurel's. Laurel will probably feel guilty about Nana's sacrifice. 
Lots of schools give their seniors "off-campus privileges" which means they can leave school grounds for lunch. 

Chapter Nineteen

A caricature is a picture of a person where certain features have been exaggerated. Below is a caricature of President Obama where his ears and chin are certainly exaggerated. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the context and your understanding of the characters, curtly probably means ___________________. 
Using a metaphor that compares choosing a college to playing tennis, shows that Laurel's dad  ________________________________. 
This sentence gives us a specific detail that tells us that this story takes place in present day New York. 
Used this way, "legacy" means that someone you are related to once attended the college. 
You are getting to know Laurel pretty well as a character. She is well-rounded and definitely a dynamic character. Watch the video below to learn more about dynamic vs. static characters.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter Twenty

My Fair Lady is a famous musical about an arrogant professor who bets he can turn a poor London street girl into a lady of fine breeding.  (This annotation contains an image)
Puppies and kittens are "weaned" when they are old enough to eat on their own and no longer need to nurse. It's usually around 8 weeks after birth. 
Laurel has this reaction because ____________________________. 
Why do you think Laurel feels the need to take in the cat and kittens? 

Chapter Twenty - one

The application for most colleges includes several personal essays. The admission boards use these essays not only to judge how well an applicant writes, but also to get to know the applicant and see how he or she stands out from others. 
What does Laurel mean by the phrase "coming to his rescue"? 
Explain why Suzie probably wanted Laurel to do this. 
Why does Meg say, "Eve knows all," sarcastically? 
This might be more foreshadowing that something bad is going on in Meg's life that she is not sharing with Laurel. 
Making Laurel's sadness appear to be human and a part of her party is a literary device called ______________________. 
This is one of many details that characterizes Laurel's parents as unique and unconventional. 

Chapter Twenty - two

Sushi is an Asian dish of raw fish, rice, and vegetables wrapped together in a roll with rice paper and cut into circular slices.  (This annotation contains an image)
Do you think Laurel is right, or do you believe that Andie and Hannah are sincere in their friendship with Meg and Laurel? Explain. 
Wasabi is a hot, spicy green sauce that is often served with Asian cuisine. 
This is an allusion to the popular story by Dr. Seuss, "The Cat in the Hat." Thing One and Thing Two are two characters from this book and the much viewed television special.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Meg angry to see David? 
David has been thinking just like Laurel and possibly blaming himself for the accident. 

Chapter Twenty - three

As he says this, David is probably feeling ________________________. 
What can you infer from this description of David? 
The Scarlet Letter is a classic American novel by Nathanial Hawthorne about a Puritan woman named Hester Prynne who is scorned by the very religious community in which she lives because of her pregnancy by a man besides her husband. As punishment, she is forced to wear a scarlet A, for adulteress, on all of her clothing.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you think it might be a good idea for David and Laurel to go back to this cave? 

Chapter Twenty - four

What might David be thinking? 
Here Laurel recognizes that David may have an internal struggle with wanting to protect his father but blaming him too. 
David is really taunting Laurel now, trying to get her mad.  
"Kid gloves" is an idiomatic expression that means treating someone with extra care because of a difficult situation. 
Laurel may not realize it, but David always says things that make her feel good about herself. His words are always honest and real. 
This is an example of hyperbole, when we use extreme exaggeration to help make a point. Watch this entertaining video for a thorough look at the power of hyperbole.  (This annotation contains a video)
This is an example of what literary device? 

Chapter Twenty - five

What is Laurel referring to here? 
Laurel's friendship with David gives her strength. 
Quiz #2--Chapters 13-25 

Chapter Twenty - six

Limbo used this way means a place or state of transition or a midway point. David's father is in a coma and so, practically speaking, he is not alive nor is he dead. It comes from the Catholic religion in which they believed unbaptized infants were in limbo, meaning neither in heaven or in hell. 
Do you think David is running away from Laurel? Explain your thinking. 
These sentences help develop a theme of growing up and growing apart. 
Laurel may be learning that forgiveness and letting go of anger may lead to __________________________. 
Here Nana is asking if Laurel got whatever it was that motivated her to see Mr. Kaufman out of her system.  

Chapter Twenty - seven

The use of personification with the computer expresses which of the following? 
What does Laurel seem to want most from Joe? 
Even though this sounds flattering and appealing, is this what Laurel really wants? 
Laurel can't answer that question because _________________________. 
When Laurel says to Joe, "Life is short," what theme is she illustrating? 

Chapter Twenty - eight

A cornucopia is often used as a Thanksgiving decoration because it symbolizes the harvest and abundance.  (This annotation contains an image)
What is Laurel trying to express about David here? 
This is a figurative way of saying which of the following? 
Since Joe is combining caricatures with superheroes, his drawings may look something like this. (This annotation contains an image)
You should recognize that both Nana and Laurel are taking an important step here. 

Chapter Twenty - nine

The details that Nana forgets the marshmallows and that she's not feeling well may be foreshadowing. 
A "sheepish grin" implies that David is a little embarrassed by coming over unannounced. 
David is acting __________________. 
This detail show which of the following? 
Why do you think it has taken Meg so long to tell Laurel about what is going on in her life at home? 

Chapter Thirty

Clearly Laurel is faced with a choice between two things that are important to her. What would you do if you were in Laurel's position? 
This simile shows that Meg was purposely trying to hurt Laurel, like throwing a well-aimed dart. 

Chapter Thirty - one

Which of the following sentences further develops a character? 
The word "flip" here is short for flippant which means being funny in an arrogant or disrespectful way. 
This sentence is an example of what type of figurative language? 

Chapter Thirty - two

This shows that Laurel is demonstrating what Suzie earlier explained to her about continuing her relationship with her parents and brother even though they are gone. 
Laurel seems to be going back and forth between her feelings for David and her feelings for Joe. She still hasn't made up her mind. 
Why might Laurel feel uneasiness now? 
Using this kind of comparison, shows that Joe mentioning David's name was explosive to Laurel. What type of figurative language is this? 

Chapter Thirty - three

Many of the problems that Laurel is facing are problems that all teenagers face. 
What does Laurel mean by this? 
"Sayonara" is Japanese for goodbye, and "au revoir" is French for good bye. 
Why do you think that Laurel can easily talk to Meg about Joe, but not about David? 
Now that Laurel and Meg have mended their friendship, what other conflicts does Laurel still face? 

Chapter Thirty - four

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated in December for eight days and nights. Gift giving often occurs on each of these days. On each night a single light on a Menorah, a type of candelabrum, is lit and then an extra, raised light is lit on the eighth night.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you think Nana and Laurel's mother had a fight about the electric menorah each year? 
The van may have looked something like this.  (This annotation contains an image)
When Meg asks Laurel this question, it seems to refer to another underlying theme in this novel. In your own words, what is that theme? 
It seems that we know that Laurel really prefers David over Joe. She can truly be herself around him. When readers know something the characters in a story don't know, it creates suspense. This is called dramatic irony. Watch the video for further explanation of dramatic irony.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter Thirty - five

You should recognize that Mr. Kaufman's awakening is the climax of this novel.  
Shallow means concerned with only material and superficial things rather than feelings or things of real importance. 

Chapter Thirty - six

This is a picture of the Tappan Zee Bridge that goes across the Hudson River.  (This annotation contains an image)
Of course, now Joe is better and ready for his date with Laurel. The timing couldn't be worse for her, but it makes the plot more exciting. It seems that everything is happening at once. 
Based on her character and the given description, Nana ___________________________. 
We know what happened before when Laurel asked David if she could come with him to visit his dad. Using that context, what does bristled mean here? 
You may think it is ironic that David always wants to leave even though his dad is still alive. Yet Laurel, who has lost everyone in her immediate family, hesitates to leave. This type of irony is situational, meaning the events or actions in a story are opposite of what we would expect. Watch this video on irony.  (This annotation contains a video)
How do you feel about what Laurel is doing? Do you think she's doing the right thing? 
This is an allusion to the well-known myth of Pandora. Pandora, meaning all gifted, was the first woman, created by Hephaestus, to give to mankind. Zeus planned this as revenge since Prometheus had given man fire. Pandora carried a jar (or box) that contained all the evils of the world and she opened it even though she was told not to. Thus, all of the grievances of man were unleashed on the world. According to the myth, the only thing left in her jar was hope.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter Thirty - seven

You can infer here that Joe realizes Laurel really likes David. He understands what she hasn't even admitted to herself. 
What is the best explanation for why this bothers Laurel? 
Figuring out the answer to this question goes along with one of the themes of this novel--growing up. 
This kind of reaction shows Laurel that David ________________________. 
Do you think David really means what he's saying here? Explain what he may be doing. 

Chapter Thirty - eight

Why do you think the author chose to have David and Laurel come here at this point in the novel? 
It is customary in the Jewish religion to wait up to one year before a headstone is unveiled or placed on a grave. 
Laurel has finally realized that she wants David. As a critical reader, you have probably predicted this for some time. 
Quiz#3--Chapters 26-38