Kat's Books

Photographer, book reviewer, mama, cat-lover in Seattle. Originally from England.

You can find my reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and Edelweiss+.

School library volunteer at my son's K8 school.  Member of ALA and YALSA.

Links: linktr.ee/romans_mama

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Absolutely heart-wrenching novel with bipolar illness at its core

Before I Let Go - Marieke Nijkamp

This was an absolutely heart-wrenching read. It’s a story about a college-age girl called Corey going back to the tiny town of Lost Creek, Alaska, where she grew up, upon hearing that her very best friend, Kyra has suddenly died. But Corey knows something isn’t right and Kyra shouldn’t have ‘gone’ so soon.
As soon as Corey gets back to Lost, she feels like an outsider in a place she used to know like the back of her hand. You immediately start reading and get an eerie feeling, and that unwelcome vibe she’s feeling is ominous. Author Marieke Nijkamp writes about the friendship between Kyra and Corey with such love and empathy, as well as she describes the cold, harsh veneer that the townspeople are throwing up against Corey upon her return. It’s mystifying and becomes more deeply disturbing, the more alone she feels. Nijkamp interestingly employs phone calls, flashbacks, letters, and even the use of screenplay-style writing structures to convey what’s going on in the story.
I went into reading this not quite knowing that the underlying emotional and complex issue, beyond mammoth ones of grief and loss, is mental illness (bipolar disorder). There’s also a good amount of the characters exploring their sexuality, so there’s a significant LGBTQ storyline to this, and written with wonderful tenderness.
When it came to the core issue of how Kyra was dealing with being bipolar and how her parents were not treating it appropriately, as well as issues with how she felt ostracized because of her illness, I do hope this brings up a larger conversation, and is thought about significantly when read. It is central to the whole story, and the effects of her illness not being dealt with are devastating.
What is so beautiful to read about in this novel is the strong friendship between the girls, their different passions (for storytelling, for the stars, for travel), and the description of the frightening but likely majestic wilderness.
This is a very unique novel, with an original setting, and I felt heartbroken that these two great friends had to lose each other. Thank you for the spectacular read, Sourcebooks.