Review: Before I Let Go – Marieke Nijcamp

Review: Before I Let Go – Marieke NijcampBefore I Let Go
by Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Genres: Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Source: Bookish First

I received this book for free from Bookish First in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne Star

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...

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Trigger warnings: View Spoiler »

I was not expecting to receive this book – it showed up as a bonus along with As You Wish, which I’ll be reviewing later this week.

I can’t quite put my finger on what didn’t work for me, but I think part of it is that I’m not usually a fan of magical realism.  For example, there’s times when Corey thinks she hears a ghost.  Was it actually a ghost?  Was it her guilty conscience?  Was it someone trying to trick her into thinking there’s a ghost?  I don’t know, because it’s never actually explained.  There’s not really any sort of build up of the tension, really – what I suspected happened after the first few chapters is what actually happened.  Instead of building from “normal la la everything’s alright” to “AH!!!!” it starts right out at creepy and stays pretty much the same for the rest of the book.

The book consists of a mix of chapters from Corey’s point of view interspersed with letters from Kyra, and then weird script-type sections.  For the life of me, I’m not sure what the author was trying to accomplish with those.  They made me feel especially disconnected from Corey, because these supposedly creepy things would happen, and we’d never really get her emotional reaction to them.

That gets into one of the major reasons I couldn’t really get into the book: I never really got a good feel for Corey.  Though we see her and Kyra in flashbacks, for the most part, present Corey has just one emotional state: anger.  She’s downright belligerent, and seriously, when you’re confronting people who you  think are hiding secrets about your best friend’s death, wouldn’t you try to be, I don’t know, a little more circumspect?  I think we’re supposed to excuse Corey’s bluntness due to grief, but honestly, half the time I wanted to smack Corey for being all self-righteous and “no one else knew her but me!!!!!” to pretty much the entire town, including Kyra’s grieving parents.  While there is a large dollop of truth to that, it felt odd to have her confronting them after Kyra’s death when she did absolutely nothing to stop her from being ostracized while she was still alive.  While Corey says she doesn’t believe Kyra’s death was suicide, she never comes up with any theories herself as to what could have happened until she’s finally confronted with the truth.

One of the major themes is that Kyra is more than her mental illness, but pretty much all of Corey’s memories of her revolve around her BPD, so all we really do see of her is that.  I’m not sure if the author intended it to be that way, but it struck me as odd.  One of the few non-BPD things explored with Kyra is her attraction to Corey.  Corey self-describes herself as asexual, and Keira as pansexual.  Corey has a lot of guilt over Kyra’s death, and some of it is that she couldn’t return Kyra’s feelings in the same way.  While there are several other positive gay relationships in the book, it bothered me that this one had such an unrequited, negative connotation to it.

Storytelling was another theme that ran through the book, including the importance of groups telling their own story, rather than having their story told for them.  At times, Corey sees herself as the only person capable of telling Kyra’s story, rather than just a story about Kyra.  I found this part fascinating and wish it had been emphasized more over some of the creepy elements, and if I end up rereading this book, it’ll be to explore that theme more.

Overall, I feel like I’ve been very negative about this book.  But, honestly, it’s very readable – I finished it in an afternoon, and while I was reading it, I enjoyed it.  I generally enjoyed the author’s style and her lyrical prose, and I felt the descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness and how remote it was were really well done.  I have the author’s first book on my TBR list, so I think I’ll go back and read that one before deciding if she’s a not-for-me author.

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