Review: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
‘Let me tell you a story.
She was my best friend. She was my everything. And I lost her.’
Before I Let Go follows Corey back to her hometown of Lost Creek in Alaska. She moved away seven months ago when her mother decided to relocate the family, but Corey returns after receiving news of the apparent suicide of her best friend, Kyra. Corey needs to get to the bottom of what happened. When she left, Kyra was still seeing her therapist and taking her medication, and she seemed hopeful. What changed?
I loved Marieke Nijkamp’s debut novel, This Is Where It Ends, and I was hoping that I’d love her second effort, too. Sadly, it left me feeling lukewarm. The main problem is that nothing happens. It’s trying to be too many things at once – YA flirting with literary fiction, psychological thriller and ghost story – but none of the aspects are developed. There are various nods towards paranormal and mystical events, but none of them are explained later in the novel.
Then there are bizarre sections where the scenes are suddenly written as screenplays. This might have worked if we’d been following Kyra, who was obsessed with telling stories, but it doesn’t gel with Corey’s character. As soon as I was getting fully absorbed by the story, one of these pieces would come along and completely break my concentration once more. Whereas I couldn’t put This Is Where It Ends down, it was difficult to motivate myself to pick up Before I Let Go.
However, it wasn’t all bad.
The Alaskan setting is gorgeously written. It’s a character by itself, adding to the isolated, chilling atmosphere. If it had been a ghost story, this would have been an even more effective choice. Towards the start of the novel – when the paranormal aspects still seemed relevant rather than shoehorned in – it sent shivers down my spine at multiple moments.
I also appreciated the way Nijkamp dealt with the sexuality of her characters (Kyra is pansexual and Corey is asexual, but neither of them are defined by those labels) and Kyra’s bipolar disorder. Although the inhabitants of Lost alienate her because of her mental health, Kyra is a strong character who isn’t afraid to speak out against their bigoted views. That will be inspirational for anyone who has ever felt exiled because of a diagnosis. I can’t speak as to how realistic Nijkamp’s portrayal of bipolar is, as it’s not something I have personal experience of, but I’ll be interested to hear other people’s thoughts.
Before I Let Go kind of reminded me of Tess Sharpe’s Far From You, which is one of my favourite books of all time. If you’re not convinced to try this book, I’d highly recommend giving that one a go. It has all of the best elements of Before I Let Go (non-linear storytelling, a mystery and a best friend who refuses to let go) but is far more effective.
If you’re interested in learning more about Before I Let Go, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!
EDIT: Oops, I almost forgot! There’s a Rafflecopter giveaway for a gift basket from Alaska Wild Berry Products which you can enter here. The giveaway ends on the 31st of January, so you still have plenty of time to get an entry in.