YA Review: BEFORE I LET GO by Marieke Nijkamp

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Title: BEFORE I LET GO

Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

TW: bipolar disorder, suicide

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…

My Review:

A dark and heartfelt story about loss, grief, friendship and the secrets on the way.

The book follows Corey, a 17 y/o girl as she goes back to her hometown after her bestfriend’s death only to find there are darker mysteries buried deep in the town. Now she must reconcile with her past and find the truth behind her best friend’s death.

I have been waiting to read this book since I read Nijkamp’s last book. I was overly excited, but this book had a very slow start. I didn’t feel like it was strong enough to hold on to my attention. This book went on and off from DNF too many times until I reached at about 70% of the book where the story finally seems to be starting.

The pacing wasn’t just slow, but it was kind of off. The settings and the friendship dynamic could still save it but it all fell flat. Corey and Kyra are just the typical best friends, without much character development along the way. The small town with dark secret was overly done with no twists which made it quite cliche. The side characters sounded close to no use for the book, and they are all easy to forget. The only thing that kept me going was the mention of Kyra’s ghost and the subtle supernatural signs she was leaving for Corey.

The tiny dash of magical realism (?) or maybe supernatural (?) is the only thing that felt engaging. The story takes quite a thrilling and scary twist but the secret behind Kyra’s death is never completely solved which can be a little upsetting. That being said, I still loved the unique way of ending the story which will leave you hungover for weeks.

I loved the aro+ace rep in Corey’s character which I could relate to.  Nijkamp also portrays bipolar disorder in a raw and realistic way that leaves you aching but also understanding Kyra’s character in depth. I could relate to her mania and depression, her fears of never being anything more than her MIs and the town’s insensitive and hurtful attitude towards her. Still, I would have preferred to see a happy ending for Kyra.

Overall, the narrative style, the mystery and the supernatural twist makes the book quite interesting and I’m happy it didn’t end up being DNF for me and at the end, it was worth reading the full book and going on a journey to relive grief with Corey.

before i let go

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