Before I Let Go

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 04 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

Before I Let Go was a strange read. It didn't grip me at first, and I only picked it up again because I had loved Marieke Nijkamp's first book. The second time I tried the book, I finished it in one sitting. Partly because I needed to know what had happened to the characters, and partly because I wanted the experience to be over. I think there could have been a good story here, with insightful thoughts about mental health and about friendship, but the plot was so muddled with different genres and formats that all of the good content got lost. The book contained various different types of writing, from phone calls and excerpts from letters which are typical of this type of flashback-oriented book, to sections which were written like a play, with the reader looking on at the same narrative but from a different, more removed angle. Every time the format of the book changed, the immersive experience of reading was lost. I think the idea could have been very clever, but was not put into practice very effectively. 

Having raced to the end of the book to finally get some sort of resolution and answers to the big mystery of the main characters, I was faced with more mystery and more questions. Throughout the book there is a question of magic, and imagination vs. reality. The ending of the book did not solve any of these conundrums, and instead of leaving me intrigued it's just left me annoyed. The book really was not good enough to deserve any more of my attention. I wish this book could have been better. There is potential here for an accurate depiction of mental health, family, and friendship, and instead there is a jumbled mess of different genres, poor writing style, confusing plot, and unsatisfactory pacing.
Was this review helpful?
Once upon a time, as this storytelling-focused story might begin a tale, Corey and Kyra were best friends in the microscopic Lost Creek. Then Corey’s family moved to Canada and Corey went away to boarding school. Seven months later, Kyra died when the ice broke on a frozen lake and she fell in. In those seven months, Lost went from considering Kyra a bipolar “danger” to the revered hometown golden girl. Corey doesn’t trust a bit of what she’s hearing, but Lost no longer trusts her. Seven months away is enough time for Corey to become an outsider–and Lost doesn’t take kindly to outsiders. Contemporary, horror, suspense, mystery, something unexplainable–the span of genres in Before I Let Go lends it a multifaceted quality. Though busy at times, it works well and keeps you reading.

If you were worried this would be just another Dead Girl book–one in which the main character’s personal journey is centered entirely on an unknowable dead girl–you will be pleased to know it’s not. Though Lost is obsessed with controlling Kyra’s narrative and Corey tells us of the Kyra she knew, the dearly departed still tells her own story through her letters to Corey and a diary she hid from Lost. Like I said, storytelling-focused story. If you were a fan of Hamilton‘s storytelling theme, Before I Let Go will be your new best friend.

Nijkamp’s chosen setting of tiny Lost Creek, Alaska is brilliantly written and appropriately claustrophobic. It more than fulfills the two needs for such a setting: a sparse town with only a handful of places to be and a small population of recognizable, individual people. My mom grew up in a town like Lost Creek and regularly tells stories about it. The way Corey talks about lost is almost identical to the way Mom talks about her hometown when we visit and she points out all three notable places.

The people of Lost are what gives the novel its tinge of horror and suspense too! They–especially Kyra’s parents–are so determined to protect Kyra’s “legacy” that they unite into a single terrifying entity when Corey opposes them. For God’s sake, they just stood there and watched when the cabin Corey was staying in caught fire and she had to escape through a window. A town and population like this could come right out of a Stephen King novel.

The legacy Lost wants so desperately to protect? Kyra’s painted prophecies. The return of mining work to town via a new investor, specific people and places Corey visits throughout, her own manner of death,… She predicted these and more in her art. It’s not paranormal or magical realism, simply the unexplainable. Among other unexplainable things: WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH AARON’S CABIN?

But the strongest idea at the core of Before I Let Go are deconstructions of “suffering for your art” and the misconceptions surrounding mentally ill creatives. Kyra painted to cope with her bipolar disorder, not to indulge any passion for art. Once Lost discovered her painted prophecies, they came to depend on her only for her art and isolated her in a abandoned spa. Since she only painted during her manic episodes and her medication helped control her moods, they withheld her meds. If the painted visions required she suffered for her art, then so be it. They’d make sure she suffered. She’d already foretold her own death, after all.

Think about some of the mentally ill creatives throughout history, like Sylvia Plath and Ernest Hemingway. Both wrote works of literary genius and both committed suicide when they were relatively young. Had they gotten effective treatment, they may have lived much longer and produced much more work. But would it have been as well-received as the work they made with poor treatment or none at all?

Like the people of Lost, we simply accept the relationship between their work and lack of treatment without much thought. We don’t wonder whether they created due to passion or simply to cope, or how they felt about what they created. A mentally ill creative might make something they dislike or nothing at all with poor/no treatment and only make something they truly love/are passionate about when getting good treatment–or nothing at all if they’re like Kyra and only create to cope. No art is ever worth the suffering of the artist. Them getting treatment is more important than any art they make without it.

Because Lost never thought about any of the above, Kyra died. How many lives have prematurely ended because we didn’t think about any of this either?

Nijkamp’s debut This Is Where It Ends has set a high standard by spending over a year on the New York Times bestseller list, but Before I Let Go has it beat. It’s a deeply layered, moving, and at times terrifying novel I’d teach to high school students if I could stomach teaching. It’s not emotionally easy to read, but you’d be missing brilliance if you skipped out on this visceral reading experience.
Was this review helpful?
I found the book to be thrilling and a page turning read. However I would find it hard to classifying this book into a specific genre area for my library. Of course this is no fault to the book it's self but it makes myself more questioning of ordering the book the.
Was this review helpful?
I have not heard good things about this book therefore I have lost all interest that i had in reading it.
Was this review helpful?
It felt a little all over the place. Full review on Goodreads.
Was this review helpful?
I think maybe it's just that Marieke Nijkamp's books aren't the right fit for me.  My students LOVED her first book, even though I didn't especially enjoy it.  I may purchase this book even though I didn't love it.  I found it pretty repetitive; I was mildly invested in unraveling Kyra's death, but it seemed to drag on in many parts and I didn't understand a lot about Corey's character.  I think her books just aren't my personal style.
Was this review helpful?
i can see the 13-15 yr. old girls loving this. It has love, friendship, loss, death, murder, a spooky town filled with even spookier townspeople. You wonder how far the town will go to keep a secret. Another death?
A sad book, that will keep you turning the pages into the dark of the night. Thank you netgalley for the early copy.
Was this review helpful?
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started this book: it is written in first person and a series of unmailed letters. A young woman is found drowned in a small isolated community. Her best friend who had left for school is compelled to go back to search for answers on how and why her friend died.

The back story of mental health, understanding and acceptance is more interesting than what finally happens and is almost as tragic. It is a good, if painful , mirror into how tough it is to handle and live with this kind of illness which seems to be fall less acceptable in society than physical illness.

How both women are treated- once you leave the door is closed behind you, and if you stay you are at the mercy of those around you, even if they don't understand, or want to. How people can get squeezed into boxes set up by others seems almost inevitable without support and advocacy. 

Written with heart and compassion, this book gives a little different window into situations that occur right around us every day that may creep under the wire of understanding sometimes.
Was this review helpful?
The best part of this book, for me, was the setting. I truly hope there are not many towns like Lost Creek around. The town and the people in it gave this book a pretty creepy vibe. I believe this is a likeable book for a lot of people, everyone can find something to bond with in this book and feel satisfactory at the end.

Pros
Friendship: The friendship is woven around every fiber of this book. There are way too many YA books where insta loves makes two good friends lovers, or where insta love makes two good friends hate each other. I love how friendship is the core for this book and that that's what the focus is on.
Life lessons: There is a great deal to learn from this book. I loved how Kyra looks at the world and questions everything around her. This book contains friendship, loss, doubts, heartbreak, fear, mental illness and the way a small town can break a person. All subjects that this author is not afraid to use in her book and make sure you learn something from it.
Portraying Mental Illness: Mental Health is something that's very hard to grab, for me personally. I've written this before; It's so hard to understand and even harder to watch and not be able to do something about it. I felt like I could understand Corey, while she had to watch Kyra crumble and crawl back up. This book is not trying to give you an explanation or a way to deal with mental healt, it just shows how raw it can be and how helpless you can feel while you fiercely love this person.
Creepy vibe: There were some creepy vibes going on. At some point I decided not to read this in my new house, alone, while it was dark...

Cons
No tension: While the book was creepy, there never was a lot of tension for me. The book lingers on a bit, has a tensive little part at the end, but not much before that scene. While you do question what happened and there is a lot of Mystery, it lacked a bit of tension.
Not very believable: I found the way Kyra's parents react to her death very unbelievable, as well as the way Kyra died and what happened to her before that. The characters and the feelings in this book were so real, while the plot was a bit unbelievable. So sad..

Overall
I have to be honest here, I did not like This Is Where It Ends that much. I felt that Marieke Nijkamp did not give me enough answers at the end of the book, while the characters and relationships were the best part of the book. I was so happy to see I was chosen to review the book via Netgalley because I did not feel that Marieke Nijkamp is a bad author. I feel that she gave me a satisfactory feeling and the end of the book and was able to write another book with great characters and a lot of feelings and life lessons. So while I try not to compare books, I do have to tell you that I like Before I Let Go better than her first book!
Was this review helpful?
The good: there was a very spooky vibe that I enjoyed, and the writing was lovely.  The bad: I did find some parts very repetitive, and there could have been more character development,   Overall, I liked this book; it kept me hooked, and I finished it quickly.  I think it'll be quite popular.
Was this review helpful?
"Before I Let Go" was a pretty unique piece of YA fiction- I'm not sure how to categorize it, maybe as a psychological thriller. We follow Corey from the time she found out her BFF, Kyra, has died over the course of her short trip to Lost Creek, Alaska, the place she used to know as home. Corey left town several months ago to attend a boarding school, when her mother moved away. She was really sad to leave Kyra behind, but they promised to stay in touch and wait for each other- and they were almost there. This is why Corey is shocked to hear that Kyra's death is considered suicidal (it is believed she looked for a crack in the ice and drowned).

The story is told in pieces- we have the present events, events from the past few years of Kyra/Corey together, and letters which Kyra had written but not sent to Corey (plus some stylistic writing as if a screenplay). Together, it makes for an incredibly engaging story. We get to put together the pieces of Kyra and Corey separately and together through their friendship. There is a big disconnect between the town Corey left and the one she returns to. The whole story is shrouded in mystery and grief- and it had the feel of a thriller at times. The town and the people in it had a very surreal feel, almost like Stepford, where you know there has to be more to the story and it's really creepy and you're dying to figure out why. This book ended up being a quick read for me, primarily for that reason- I absolutely had to figure out what happened to Kyra and what would happen to Corey.

The pace of this book is absolutely perfect, and the descriptions of Kyra really brought her to life. Corey was less well-developed, despite being the primary character. It was a really interesting format, where although being told from Corey's point-of-view, the character we get to know best and understand the most is Kyra. I also thought the depiction of bipolar disorder in this book was well done- it goes through examples of both her highs and her lows, plus some of her coping mechanisms and thoughts about the disease. It felt pretty genuine. The rest of the story felt more surreal, and considering that Kyra loved stories and fables, it almost felt like the book was it's own story (maybe enhanced in the retelling). I'm not saying that as a bad thing- it gave the overall tone an interesting quality that made it all a bit more of a mystery.

Overall, I think this was a really intriguing and unique story along the lines of a psychological thriller. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Before I Let Go tells the story of Corey, who is returning home to Lost Creek following the death of her best friend, Kyra. Initially, the story seemed quite promising: Corey believes that the town failed Kyra and that there is something more than meets the eye. Kyra had previously been a bit of an outcast, but before her death, she had been embraced by the townspeople and they had encouraged her focus on painting various scenes that foretell events in Lost Creek. As the story unfolded, though, the promise seemed to evaporate. I found this book overly repetitive and I had to push through to the end. Despite this, there were some interesting devices used to break up the story, including flashbacks, letters, and scenes including script and set-up.
Was this review helpful?
Corey and Kyra we're best friends since the day they were born 17 years ago.  When Corey leaves Alaska to attend college,  they make a promise to each other,  a promise to wait.  Days before Corey is to fly back to Alaska,  Kyra is found dead,  and Corey doesn't believe it's an accident.
The writing is not good and it just does not keep your attention.  I was very disappointed with this book.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Corey visits her old home, Lost Creek, after her best friend Kyra drowns. However, not everything is as it appears on small-town Lost Creek.

This book had such great potential but it fell massively short, though I didn't care for "This is Where It Ends," so I shouldn't even be surprised.

Yes, I was hooked and intrigued since the beginning but it just NEVER got good. The story felt too repetitive and it was just...weird. Like another user said, Nijkamp shot out of the gates, rather than building the suspense, and, so, it felt like it never went anywhere. 

I didn't understand the various chapters that were written like scripts. What, exactly, did that add to the story? Nothing or maybe I missed something. 

I'm also confused about the genre and unclear as to whether this was meant to include magical realism or if it was just straight up realistic fiction with some weird factor mixed in.

I don't know but this one wasn't good and finding it was so laborious!
Was this review helpful?
There's some interesting mystery and good suspense written into the story. I enjoy how the book plays with time - flashbacks to Corey and Kyra's time together. I appreciated the set up and the first half of the story, but the second half lost me.

Possible spoilers by reference to story:
It was odd to me how the whole town took on this hypnotized quality and this blind faith around their oracle. There are these moments of the supernatural that are never explained/resolved - the song that Corey keeps hearing, the whispers/voices, the flowers strewn everywhere, the seeming presence. Since the point of the story seemed to be that OTHERS gave Kyra these special gifts - that she wasn't really supernatural or a seer - I don't understand why there's still so much mysticism woven through the story. The whole thing makes me feel a little dumb, because I don't get it.
Was this review helpful?
Before I Let Go is not for the kind hearted, it is one of the best book I have ever read that broke me in pieces I didn't think I could recover! The emotion is raw so raw you can see right thru it! A MUST READ BOOK!
Was this review helpful?
I feel like this novel started off with a lot of potential. However, the story went in a completely different direction than expected - or hoped - while at the same time it didn't really go anywhere at all. 

I really liked the story's setting: a small town somewhere in Alaska, far off the rest of the world. A protagonist who left this home and is now returning to it as an outsider. And finally, a girl with mental illness who never seemed to fit in and tragically committed suicide. This really sounded like an interesting novel featuring diverse characters and so-called "taboo topics" and I couldn't wait to find out where this would go. 
Unfortunately, all these interesting things got lost among the way. While I found some parts of the story irritating (e.g. the mixing up of genres - YA, then thriller-ish, then YA again) others just didn't seem to be logical at all (e.g. Kyra's parents' behaviour). The same goes for the flashbacks: I couldn't recognize any coherence there, it was more as if Corey was constantly repeating herself. By the end of the book, I was just plainly annoyed by it: the characters, their behaviour, the repetitive writing style, how the storyline seemed illogical. Towards the end, I was hoping that certain events would cause a certain reaction by the protagonist. But when that didn't happen, I finally lost patience and really stopped hoping for the story to make a sensible turn. 

If I had to put my finger on the main aspect that causes me not to recommend this book, I would say it's because even though the initial idea that started off this novel sounded good, it really didn't go somewhere from its starting point. Which is a real shame considering how interesting this seemed.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely fell in love with this book. I have anxiety and depression myself and I feel like Corey and Kyra have an amazing relationship. I think that Corey could've been Kyra's saving grace had she made it home in time.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this thriller - atmospheric and tense set in the cold bleak Alaskan town of Lost Creek. Corey is trying to uncover why her friend, Kyra has died. She uncovers a town wide 'conspiracy' of silence and has to rethink her concepts of 'home', 'friendships' and 'truth'. Bipolar disorder is dealt with sensitively and makes you question how you see someone suffering in this way - whether or not you really accept them for who they are. The novel also raises the issue of collective responsibility and collective memories - are they truth or myth and what function do they have.

An interesting read.
Was this review helpful?
I think that this author's writing style is not my cup of tea.
Perhaps a case of "it's not you, it's me."
Was this review helpful?