Before I Let Go

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

Haunting story of a girl trying to come to terms with the death of a friend. More questions are raised than are answered and much is left for interpretation. The writing style is at times poetic and the narrator spends a lot of time sharing her thoughts and questions. There may or may not be elements of magical realism--perhaps an unreliable narrator instead? This would be a terrific book for group discussion with teens who appreciate literary pieces; not sure if it will appeal to the average teen.
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Putting my thoughts for this book into words is really hard. I read this book in about two and a half days because I wanted to know what happenes or rather happened. The story of Corey and Kyra was really heartwrenching. While reading I had to take some breaks because I felt really drained and burned out sometimes. Maybe this was because the topic was really heavy and the author had the intention to make the readers feel that way, but maybe it was because I was really frustrated at times. The town of Lost, the people of Lost irritated me so much and made me even angrier. Their behaviour was just really horrible which was the whole thing about them but it made it really hard for me to enjoy what I've read.

In the end I can't really say if I liked this book or not. I just feel confused and irritated and also really sad.
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Nijkamp's first novel, This Is Where It Ends, hooked me but ultimately left me feeling like I read someone's idea of what happens at a school shooting (i.e., it didn't make a lot of sense). Unfortunately, Before I Let Go didn't even hook me. I kept plugging away at it but it's not quite creepy enough. While I suppose you could say some parts are fantasy, other parts are totally unbelievable--does no one in this book own a cell phone?
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Before I Let Go is a story of friendship, love, and tragedy. The setting of this tiny town in Alaska provides a backdrop for a story that at times borders on magical realism, winding the beliefs of the townspeople into its tapestry. It's never quite certain whether Kyra deserved the strange devotion bestowed upon her by the people of the town. It's as if that question does not really matter.

What does matter throughout the novel is Kyra's need to be loved for who she is. She does not want to be loved despite it, nor does she want to be feared because of it. No one around her fully understands what her bipolar disorder means for them. They find it unpredictable and frightening. Because of their fear and ignorance, the people of the town only think of themselves. They never ask themselves what Kyra's mental health might mean for her.

Marieke Nijcamp highlights an issue that is burgeoning into a discussion in modern America. So often, people who struggle with these types of disorders are portrayed in media as frightening, chaotic, challenging, or savants. Kyra's story straddles all of these personas, and yet they never fit, suit, or help her. She wears them like uncomfortable clothing because she is trapped and isolated in her tiny, petri dish of a world.

In this beautifully told story, Nijcamp demands that the reader examine the responses and determine how someone might get it right--for the sake of friendship, love, and avoiding tragedy.
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It will be very difficult to write a spoiler-free review of this book, but I will in due time. For now, suffice it to say that I liked this MUCH better than 'this is where it ends', though I can't say I cared that much more about the characters. It was a page turner and I polished it off in one sitting (about 4 hours). This YA is worth the read, and I have a feeling much younger readers (who get less wrapped up in a need for in-depth characterization) will really enjoy it.

I absolutely LOVED the experimental structure and the diverse cast of characters.

RIYL: We Were Liars, Dangerous Girls, All the Bright Places
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Ok but not something I'd rave about. I spent ages trying to think about what to write for this review and I'm still a bit stuck. It was just average. Mildly interesting characters and story. Found the bits of play script a bit odd!
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I found this book strange, and depressing and unrealistic.
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I was hooked from the excerpt in the Buzz books for Fall/Winter!  This was a compelling story, I couldn't put it down.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing an advance copy of Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp.  I love mysteries and psychological thrillers; Nijkamp did not disappoint with this taut, compelling YA novel of two best friends living in a very small, creepy Alaskan town, Lost, that is not inviting to newcomers and shuns those who leave. After growing up in Lost, Corey moves to Fairbanks, a new school and life, when her mom accepts a better job but both Kyra and Corey promise to wait for each other.  With Kyra’s unexpected death, Corey rushes back to Lost and through flashbacks, diary entries, letters, phone calls, and emails we see their close, enduring friendship and the town’s suffocating secrets and lies.  Kyra’s storytelling and painting give the reader a rich history of Lost.  The crippling grief and loss Corey feels over Kyra’s death is compounded by the town’s new worship of Kyra’s foretelling of the future in her paintings. But Lost never accepted Kyra with her bipolar diagnosis before, so what happened over the 7 months Corey was enjoying her new life in Fairbanks?   Teens will not be able to put down this riveting mystery as Corey unceasingly searches for the truth from the town that now views her as a traitor.  There were really no likable characters in this mesmerizing mystery but Corey’s steadfast quest for truth (she is guilty also) holds the reader captive from the first page to the last page, highly recommended!
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After reading and loving This is Where It Ends last year, it's not unfair of me to say that I had incredibly high expectations for Marieke's next book. Thus, when I saw an ARC appearing on my dashboard, I couldn't mash that button hard or fast enough. 

My excitement at getting it is nearly paired with my disappointment while reading it. There was just too much wrong with it. I did read it all the way to the end to see if there was any saving it with the resolution and, I'm sad to say, there wasn't. Not in my opinion.

Before I Let Go is a story about a town that abuses a girl who suffers bipolar disorder to the point where she commits suicide to escape them. Up till that point, they do such things as withhold her medication and her support network, including her psychiatrist, so that they can use her mechanism she uses to cope with mania--painting--to predict the future and draw the rest of the town--not her--together. And they never, ever pay for it. 

It is about a town who gaslights Kyra's best friend when she comes back to Lost for the funeral, telling her that she doesn't understand, that it's not like that. When Corey doesn't allow them to mess around with the truth of what happened, she too gets abused and on at least two occasions they try to kill her.

It's so hard to even understand the motivations by the end. You see Kyra's father, who is meant to see Corey like a second daughter, attempting to kill her by the end because she took some letters by Kyra that were addressed to Corey...

I've got nothing bad to say about the asexual or pansexual rep of the novel. There's nothing bad to say about it. 

I don't know how to finish this review. Unquestioningly, the quality of writing and sentence structure was good. There were no technical aspects that made it hard reading. But the content meant it was a really hard read to get through, and I'm not sure there was any pay off.
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Suspense meets mental illness in this story about Corey who returns home to Lost, Alaska for the funeral of her best friend Kyra. Was Kyra's death really an accident, murder or a suicide? Corey is determined to find out.
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I wanted to love this book, because I really loved Marieke Nijkamp's first novel. Before I Let Go, however, had too many odd elements to hold my interest. Although it was part mystery as Corey tries to uncover what really happened to her best friend to cause her death, the book just moved way too slowly. I didn't care about the characters, and the plot didn't feel resolved at the end.
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Would definitely recommend for my YA readers. So glad to see more diverse books for YA.
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before I let go

By: Marieke Nijkamp

Publisher: Sourcefire Books

Publication Date: 2018

Corey and Kyra are best friends in the very small town of Lost Creek, Alaska, pop. 246.  Corey’s mom moves the family to Winnipeg and days before she comes back to see her best friend, Kyra is dead.  It seems impossible for the bright, bipolar friend to be gone and Corey keeps her plane reservation and flies to Lost.  Gone just a few months, Lost is different.  Instead of the social outcast that Kyra had always been, Corey finds her honored.  Over and over Corey is told that she’s an outsider and that Kyra was loved by Lost.  Corey can’t believe that Kyra would be loved by everyone and she sets out to investigate her friend’s “murder”.

This is an incredible psychological thriller that will take you on a trip.  What really happened to Kyra? Who is to blame and why is Corey suddenly an outsider in this small community.  Kyra paints during her manic depression periods and then tears them up.  But suddenly her pictures are everywhere.  Will Corey find the truth?  Will anyone believe her?  Or will Kyra’s picture of her inside a burning building be a real prophecy?   No matter what anyone says, Kyra didn’t survive her town. “We call them hero days,” Kyra said, “because that is when we fight fear itself. And we win.”

The story bounces from the moment to any period in the last two years.  The girls conversations bounce to the action of the moment.  The story races along, back and forth in time, trying to give glimpses of what happened to Kyra and what danger Corey is in.

Highly recommended: Grades 8 & up.
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The people of Lost, Alaska, are a tight knit group and do not take well to outsiders.  So, when Corey returns to her hometown of Lost to find out what really happened to her best friend Kyra, she finds that her hometown isn't as welcoming as she thought they would be.  
Corey only has a short time to figure out how and why Kyra died, but in the end Corey is not prepared for what she finds.
A solid read for those who like mystery.
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An exciting YA mystery. Kyra has died in a frozen pond in a remote Alaska village. Her best friend returns to mourn and find the reason. She is not greeted as a friend by the community even though she grew up there. Kyra suffered from bi-polar illness and was a talented artist. Her pictures and murals are all over town and seem to be sending a message.
This will be a good addition to any YA collection. Friendship, mourning, coming to terms with life, all give this book  a must read status.
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I found the book to be a bit choppy - I didn't mind the flashbacks, but at times they seemed unnecessary.  I closed the book with so many questions left unanswered, but it sure would make for a good discussion.  It is rather haunting. .  Also a very nice book to read on a very hot summer day.
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Let me tell you a story... a story about a girl who was diagnosed, labeled, and ostracized in a town that did not allow her to bloom and shunned her most of her life for being who she was.  Let me tell you a story about a girl who was once an outsider in her own town, but then became a prisoner, the town both choking her in its embrace and at the same time abandoning her and hiding her away.  Let me tell you a story about a town that came to worship a girl, but "drained her dry until she had nothing left to give." 
Let this book tell you a story, a story about mental illness, and stigma and exploitation.  Let this book tell you that story because it can in a way that is beautiful, yet frightening and horrifying- in a supernatural way, but no less so than the experiences of those who suffer the fates of similar inflictions in our own flawed society. Lost Creek Alaska may have a terrifying kind of magic, but the haunting atmosphere of it may speak of the truly dark experiences of so many individuals in reality who are alienated like Kyra.  Our world marginalizes the mentally ill when they seem not to fit the ideal, often to the point of cruelty and neglect. Yet the same world exalts and fetishizes their achievements in the art or work they produce for relief from their pain.  Superstars lost to suicide and drug addiction come to mind.  Before I Go is an artistically crafted vision, a unique and poetic way of looking at the issues of mental illness and stigma, and a captivating mystery as well.
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I'm surprised how disappointed I was with this title. I understand that the author is part of a diversity initiative, but the inclusion of some of the, um, inclusions seemed gratuitous. For example, in only one paragraph in the whole book was it thrown in that Corey had a black friend at school. It wasn't made relevant to the story; it wasn't necessary to the characterization or plot development; it was just thrown in for diversity's sake. That's not really my first disappointment, though. It's related to how many themes this one book tackles. Manic-depression, gays and lesbians, asexuality, suicide, the environment, precognition, superheroes, There were also a few Leitwortstils going on: the "endless day, endless night" song and "So be it." Nothing wrong with this device, but it felt excessive. The salmonberries motif was never resolved other than to allude to the fact that that "they don't grow here... The girl holds flowers that shouldn't be." The foreshadowing throughout the story was too obvious, too blatant -- luckily, none of the plot foreshadowing got mixed in with the prescient aspects of Kyra's malady. The superhero and the stars motifs left nothing to the reader's imagination; the author spelled out the metaphors through the characters' thoughts and dialog.  I also had questions as to some of the characters' actions. For example, while I understand why a teen gets involved in life and cannot answer ever letter she receives, I don't understand why Corey didn't respond to Kyra's "I want to study myths, not star in one" letter. Also, how can the town folk keep accusing Corey of leaving when she was just a 17 year old girl who was moved by her mother's job situation and not someone who ran from the situation? How did Roshan, who didn't even know Corey seven months ago, know that the Hendersons "care about you [Corey], like a second daughter" ... Especially since Kyra was separated from her family for quite some time in the seven months since Corey left? Finally, was the seven months that Corey was gone enough time for the whole town to turn into the Stepford Wives?  I guess I expected realistic fiction and got magical realism, which is irrelevant to my overall reaction to the storytelling. This would make a good book from which to teach metaphors and motifs, but it's not a must-have title for a school library.
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Thank you Marieke Nijkamp and Netgalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
As a teen novel I thinks this works, as an adult fiction it is a little bit confusing. I am not sure why I feel that way but it somehow makes sense to me.
I really enjoyed this novel, so many elements join to make this a fast moving mystery (or is it).
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