Review: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Title: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult, Magical Realism (slight)
Length: 372 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


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…


Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp is a mystical young adult novel about friendship, mental illness and loss.

Corey Johnson and her family’s move from Lost Creek, Alaska to Canada means leaving behind her best friend, Kyra Henderson. The young women have sort of drifted apart since the move in spite of Kyra’s letters and Corey’s upcoming visit. Shocked to learn Kyra has died, Corey goes to Lost Creek to try to understand what happened to her friend. She quickly discovers the townspeople now consider her an outsider and despite some eerie and threatening occurrences, Corey is determined to understand what happened to Kyra in the months leading up to her death.

While Corey is more of a scientist, Kyra is a gifted painter who used art to help her deal with the manic phase of her bipolar disorder. Corey never dreamed the residents of Lost Creek would believe that Kyra’s vibrant paintings were anything other than art. Needless to say, she is stunned to learn that the townspeople finally accepted Kyra into their midst and they believed her paintings were portents of the future.  

As Corey tries to uncover the truth about what happened in the aftermath of her move, she is troubled by what seem to be ethereal encounters that she cannot decide are real or a product of her imagination. Even more frightening are the reactions of Kyra’s parents and the rest of the town when Corey refuses to stop trying to understand exactly why no one stepped in to help Krya is the months before her death.

Although well-written, the pacing of the novel is extremely slow. Neither Kyra nor Corey are well-developed and the secondary characters are somewhat superficial.  Much of the young women’s friendship is revealed through a series of non-linear flashbacks so trying to keep up with the time frame in which events are occurring is confusing. Toward the end of the novel, a few chapters appear to be written from the town’s perspective and these snippets are presented as if they are scenes from a play. The entire storyline is somewhat unrealistic and the townspeople’s collective reaction to what happened to Kyra  is too incredibly strange to believe.  And Kyra’s parents’ easy acceptance of the sequence of events is just so bizarre and the way they treat Corey is heartbreaking.

An interesting story with a great atmosphere, Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp is a unique young adult novel that touches on true to life issues.  Despite the fantastic setting, readers might be frustrated by the confusing timeline, a hard to believe storyline and a vaguely dissatisfying conclusion that leaves a few unanswered questions.

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