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What: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Who: Sourcebooks Fire

When: January 2nd 2018

How: A copy of this novel was provided by Sourcebooks Fire for review via Net Galley.

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller This Is Where It Ends comes another unforgettable story of loss, hope, betrayal, and the quest for truth.

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 honestly don’t even know where to start with this book. I was keen to read Before I Let Go for two main reasons. The first being that it had an asexual main character, and the second being that it was a mystery/thriller. I guess I’ll address both of these aspects right now.

Corey is definitely ace – there was a chapter where she went into a little bit of depth about how she didn’t really feel attracted to people and had no interest in kissing etc. Later in the chapter, there’s a flashback where Corey and Kyra are looking up queer identities and Corey says that asexual felt right for her. Though, there’s no doubt that Corey is aromantic, as well. She talks about not ever having crushes, and not ever feeling like she could give Kyra the romantic love that Kyra felt for her. I thought it strange that Corey was able to find asexual but not aromantic when she and Kyra did their searching. However, I did find an interview with the author that does confirm that Corey is aro, and states that she’s still figuring stuff out:

I do imagine Corey is aro as well. She’s just on the cusp of figuring out her own identity though, and asexual is the first word she comes across. The first time she feels recognized. I imagine she’ll go on to fine-tune it and figure out what fits her best, but she isn’t quite there yet.

So this book definitely had ace rep going on but since Corey’s aro-ness was never explored – there’s not even a hint as to whether or not she’s even figuring it out or simply thinks being ace covers how she feels in both areas – I had mixed feelings.

On to the mystery/thriller aspect. Of which there was… none. So Corey flies back to her old little home town after her best friend, Kyra, dies. Corey thinks that there’s something amiss around Kyra’s death, and she’s right – there is. But we never really find out what. I’ve tagged this book as paranormal because there was this weird introduction of prophecy by painting, where everything that Kyra painted came to life. And this creepy little town made her paint everything they ever wanted. And when she started painting her own death they were just okay with it because whatever she paints has to come true.

If you’re like ??? after reading that paragraph, you should be. I read the entire book and I’m still feeling ??? about the whole thing, to be honest. There’s no hint in the blurb that this book would take a weird, magical twist and even as I was reading it I was wondering if it was really magical or if these people were making the things happen themselves and just imagining it was Kyra’s paintings making the changes. I guess that could be the point but instead of it feeling mysterious it just felt weird.

Before I Let Go is a strange book because Corey was supposed to adore Kyra but when she moved town she almost immediately cut off all contact with her. I felt like Corey’s behaviour when she came back to Lost Creek was a little sanctimonious considering that she wasn’t there for Kyra, just like the rest of the town wasn’t. So I found it a little hard to buy into Corey’s heartbreak when she was fine with Kyra not existing in her life when she was actually, you know, alive. And besides that, their relationship was just a lot of conversations about Kyra’s BPD and stars and getting out of the town. I wanted so much more from them.

All in all, Before I Let Go was not what I was expecting. The story dragged on a lot because most of the book was Corey’s internal monologue about Kyra (most of which was repetitive), the mystery aspect was incredibly weird, and even though there were discussions about mental health and not being defined by your diagnosis there was actually not much more to Kyra’s character other than her diagnosis.

© 2018, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity. All rights reserved.

trigger warning

suicidal ideation, use of ableist language, death of a friend (possible suicide, drowning), bullying, fire, physical assault, ableism, friend with BPD (medicated and un-medicated), parental neglect

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Posted on: July 24, 2018 • By: Chiara

10 Responses to Review: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

  1. I felt the exact same way about this book. The whole painting/cult thing was really weird and I just couldn’t understand how a town full of adults could suddenly be okay with a girl dying because that’s just the way it is.

    And I kind of despised Corey. She always hated on everyone in the town for not treating Kyra right (which is true) but she moved away and cut off all contact for over half a year. I’m sorry, but how can you call yourself her best friend if you couldn’t even be bothered to reply to her letters???

    • Chiara says:

      It was just so weird! And why was every single adult, except the gardener guy, just… not capable of critical thinking? Sigh.

      I wasn’t a big fan of Corey, either. And I don’t know how she was so sanctimonious about how the town treated Kyra when she completely cut her off.

  2. I’m intrigued, but scared, to read this book! I’ve heard so many mixed things.

  3. I still haven’t read this author’s debut, though it sounds like I’d enjoy that one more…this one seems way too confusing. It kind of bothers me when you’re not expecting something magical or paranormal and then all of a sudden it’s in the book. I’m always like “what is even happening?” Plus, I find realistic mysteries/thrillers to be creeper (usually) because they ARE realistic – meaning, it could happen. Sorry this was so confusing!


    • Chiara says:

      I haven’t read the debut book, either, but I’m wondering if I will now. If I’m not a big fan of one book by an author I never really find I’m blown away by another. But you never know. Maybe one day.

      You made sense! I find the realistic ones more creepy, as well. If I go in knowing it’s paranormal, that’s fine, but surprise paranormal not so much.

  4. Kelly says:

    That’s such a shame Chiara, I have this one too to read from Netgalley after enjoying her last release, This Is Where It Ends. I do like the sexual diversity of characters and that it explores how Corey and Kyra are discussing identities, for teens especially that could be such a pivotal and beautiful moment of discovery. Would it have been more inclusive to have added that Corey might be aromantic within the narrative as well? The mystery element has made me incredibly hesitant to start this one, it’s reminding me a little of a Becca Fitzpatrick suspense. Sorry you couldn’t have enjoyed this a little more but brilliant review Chiara, wonderfully in depth ♡♡♡

    • Chiara says:

      I’m just not sure why aromantic wasn’t included with Corey and Kyra was Googling identities. It would definitely have popped up, especially since they were looking into asexuality, and the two are often spoken about together. I understand that it could have been the character not fully realising her identity, but then it wasn’t hinted that she thought she had more to discover. So all in all, I felt like it was just unfinished.

      Thanks, Kell <3 I hope you enjoy it more than I did!

  5. Ack this is disappointing. I did manage to borrow this from the library but I haven’t gotten to it yet…I really want to read more ace rep though. ?But confusing mysteries and the character not wanting to be defined by her illness but then kind of not being written well enough to pull that off….totally disappointing. I think I’ll still try it, but with like lower expectations? ?

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