Marieke Nijkamp: Before I Let Go

READ WHEN SAFE

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 just read one of the worst fictions about mental illness I’ve ever read. Worst…not as in terribly written…but as in most incredibly triggering.

Seriously, if you are going through any kind of episode, steer far clear of Before I Let Go. But more on that in a second.

Let’s start with the premise:  Corey is getting ready to head back to her tiny, out of the way hometown in Alaska, when she finds out her best friend has killed herself. She knew Kyra’s bipolar disorder had been getting worse, but she had been hoping to make it back in time to help. Instead, Corey finds the to find Lost changed by the tragedy…just not in the way she expected.

You know when you watched Jordan Peele’s Get Out, and the whole time you just felt torn between throwing the TV out the window, and needing to rescue Chris from the horrible nightmare unfolding around him? That’s how I felt the entire time I was reading Before I Let GoIt’s the same kind of “social commentary horror,” only regarding mental illness stigma instead of racism. The whole thing is just spooky as all get out.

It left me with a lot of mixed feelings. The biggest one, obviously, is that it’s triggering as fuck. If you have bipolar disorder, depression, or any suicidal tendencies at all, you need to be very very careful with this book. The townspeople are constantly talking about how “it was her time” in regards to her suicide. It makes sense in context to the plot, but it’s a pretty slippery slope.

There’s also a really big plot hole regarding time slipping that I couldn’t figure out. Every so often Corey would come across places that were dusty and abandoned…but then later they were normal?  Or there would be whispering and writing on walls. It’s almost as if there was supposed to be a ghost or another piece to the story that got left out. I felt like I was missing something but I never did find it.

I’d be amiss if I failed to recognize the LGBTQIA+ representation:  in this tiny out of the way town, we have pansexual, asexual, and gay characters.

Even though there were some holes and triggers, I liked the book. Again, it has that sort of Get Out sort of commentary, that makes you look at mental illness from a different angle–or maybe the same angle but just shines the light on stigma a little brighter than we’re used to. Before I Let Go cages that stigma in a tiny environment where it can only grow in one direction or the other, and Nijkamp is such a great storyteller that it works.

SourceBooks Fire and NetGalley provided this ARC for unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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