Before I Let Go

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Before I Let Go Book Poster Image
Teen investigates friend's death in spine-tingling mystery.

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Offers a glimpse of bipolar disorder and shows the consequences for someone no longer on her medication.  

Positive Messages

Stay true to your friend. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

After Kyra's bipolar was diagnosed, Corey remained loyal and supportive of her friend even as their classmates and neighbors called her "crazy," "nuts," and "a freak." That said, after she moved away, Corey's closeness to Kyra began to slip away and Corey had tremendous guilt when she discovered how lonely and abandoned Kyra had felt.

Violence

A girl is attacked by a man wielding a knife but gets away, a fire is set to harm a character who barely makes her escape, and one girl slaps another.

Sex

Two girls exchange a few kisses.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marieke Nijkamp's Before I Let Go is a mystery that unfolds over six bone-chilling winter days in the tiny town of Lost Creek, Alaska. Haunted by unanswered questions about the suicide of her best friend, Kyra, 17-year-old Corey has returned to her former hometown. What she soon discovers is that Lost Creek is keeping some very dark secrets -- one of which may be the circumstances behind Kyra's death. Was it actually a suicide, or could it have been murder? And why does the community that once ostracized Kyra because of her bipolar disorder now have nothing but praise for her and her talent as an artist? The spine-tingling but never too frightening storyline has only a few episodes of violence (a girl escapes a knife attack and a fire is set to try to kill a character). Nijkamp's first novel, This Is Where It Ends, was a New York Times best-seller.

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Kid, 9 years old February 25, 2018

A must-read for mature teen readers

I get a lot of the books I read from Common Sense Media recommended list, and one day I found this book review. I read it in just a couple days and it was amazi... Continue reading

What's the story?

As BEFORE I LET GO begins, 17-year-old Corey is on board a flight to her former hometown of Lost Creek, Alaska (population 246). Her best friend, Kyra, has committed suicide and Corey is full of unanswered questions about her death. It's been seven months since she and her family moved to Canada, and Corey is feeling tremendous guilt that she didn't give Kyra, a talented artist who struggled with bipolar disorder, the support she needed. Kyra's mental illness had caused her to become an outcast in the small town, but when Corey arrives in Lost Creek, she finds everything has changed. Kyra's now revered by the townspeople, who are certain her paintings have in some magical way turned the town's declining fortunes around. Corey discovers that Kyra's parents had stopped her meds so their daughter could continue to paint and that Kyra's room hasn't been lived in for weeks or even months. A torn page left behind has "I'm scared" written on it over and over again. After she finds more messages from her friend -- "They're watching me" and "I can't stay" -- Corey digs deeper into the circumstances of Kyra's death and finds her own life may now be in danger.

Is it any good?

This spine-tingling mystery unfolds in unexpected twists and turns. The storyline of Before I Let Go ticks enough boxes -- coming-of-age, friendship, misfits, a bit of fantasy, and a possible murder -- to make it a compelling read for teens. Kyra's struggle with bipolar disorder and thoughts of suicide should open a meaningful discussion between teens and parents about the prejudices and challenges faced by young people with a mental illness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the characters in Before I Let Go responded to Kyra being bipolar. Why do you think they were so ready to first ostracize her and then take advantage of her illness?

  • How do you think teens with mental illness are portrayed in books, TV shows, or movies? Is there something you've seen or read that helped you understand the challenges faced by someone with a mental illness?

  • Can you imagine living in a town with fewer than 300 people? What are the advantages and what would drive you crazy?

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