Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
Published: January 2nd 2018 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery (YA)
Rating: 2/5 stars
Synopsis: Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.
Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town’s lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she’s a stranger.
Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter…
I got an ARC of this book at YALC last summer, and was so excited about it. I had read her debut novel This Is Where It Ends before, and ended up loving it (here’s my review). After loving her first book, I knew I wanted to read her second book too. After all, she’s a Dutch author and you’ve got to support the Dutchies, no? But I’m so sad to say I was disappointed by this book.
I’ll start with the positive notes.
I love the fact that this book includes LGBT+ main and side characters. Especially because the main characters are asexual and pansexual -which is clearly stated in the book. We need more representation for ace and pan people, so it automatically made me happy to see the main characters identify as such.
The other positive aspect to this story is the setting. I thought Alaska was a really interesting place, especially because I’m not familiar with it at all. However, someone commented on my review stating that the setting of the book kind of frustrated them because the climate and such was actually incorrect. With the references to the climate and flowers made in the book, it should have been set in South-East Alaska instead. You can find the comment on my video review if you want more info! (Thanks for leaving the comment by the way, I really appreciate your intake because I learned a lot!)
Unfortunately, this is where I have to start talking about the negative aspects already.
From the synopsis you know that the entire town is acting weird, and that they are treating Kyra like a lost daughter and Corey like an outsider. And those three things get repeated again and again and again throughout the book. I felt like the author was yelling these three things at me over and over again to make sure I understood how weird everyone was. Instead of conveying a creepy and sinister atmosphere, it just made me frustrated and annoyed. I felt belittled in a way, like the author thought I wouldn’t be able to figure that out on my own and needed to be told repeatedly.
Then there were the sudden screenplay parts, which were so weird. This book is mainly told in regular prose, with letters from Kyra scattered in between. The letters make sense, after all, Corey is reading what Kyra wrote to her. But what’s with the screenplay? It has no place in the plot or story at all? It made me feel like suddenly the author got tired and instead of crafting sentences, she figured a screenplay chapter here and there would make it easier.
My third issue is the relationship between Kyra and Corey. So, Corey says Kyra is her best friend and that she’s going home to find out what happened to her. Corey moved away from their small town in Alaska seven months ago. All this time, Kyra has been writing Corey letters about her life in the town, where she has been treated like a pariah for years because she’s bipolar. In her letters, it’s clear that Kyra is going through a serious depression. Yet Corey hasn’t even bothered to answer one of her letters. How can you call yourself a best friend when you haven’t contacted the person in 7 months, even though they were clearly reaching out and needed help?
Speaking of the bipolar rep. I’m unsure whether I liked the way they talked about Kyra being bipolar in here. I feel like Corey really looked down on Kyra because of it? Always using her mental illness as an excuse. I mean, she did want Kyra to take medication and go to therapy, which is good. But then there are moments like this:
“You don’t think I’m enough like this.” She looked at me then, her eyes sad. […] She was trying to accept her illness, and I was struggling to understand her. “I think you could be so much more. I want to see you happy.”
That made me feel… off.
Lastly, I was left confused about the characters’ motivations, and especially the town. Ignoring the fact that this town is basically a mini-cult and everyone in it is basically a psychopath or sociopath, some of the characters just felt like they were there to serve the plot but didn’t make sense. For example, there’s a person called Aaron in this book. He’s from the town, and he’s part of their weird vibe-thing. But then suddenly out of nowhere he stands up for Corey. Without talking to her, without any change in his situation. That just doesn’t make sense to me.
All in all, this wasn’t my favorite book. I would highly recommend the author’s other book called This Is Where It Ends as I gave that one 5 stars. However, I don’t think I could recommend this one to you.