Aug 9, 2012
Before You Go by James Preller review
The summer before his senior year, Jude (yes, he’s named after the Beatles song) gets his first job, falls in love for the first time, and starts to break away from his parents. Jude’s house is kept dark, and no one talks much—it’s been that way since his little sister drowned in a swimming pool seven years ago when Jude was supposed to be watching her.
Now, Jude is finally, finally starting to live. Really live. And then, life spins out of control. Again.
After letting your sister drown in the family pool, your life can only go up, right? Not quite. Jude is a typical rising senior in high school with a craptastic summer job & a quirky, yet endearing best friend (Corey). Also, he's quite smitten with a certain cashierette (Becka) at his job. While his family never properly dealt with the death of his sister (his mother withdrew into the house & his father focuses on anything but human emotion), Jude has found solace in Corey. From a conservative, religious home, Corey is spunky, vivacious & unique. As total geeks the boys discuss everything from movies & music, to the video games they're kicking butt in.
Naturally Jude wants to bring together the two most important people in his life. Jude is certain that all of them hanging out together is what is necessary for his budding relationship with Becka to take the next step. But Jude just can't seem to catch a real break. A freak accident causes him to lose something so precious, there's no telling if he'll be able to get it back.
Before You Go is a subtle book. A slow building story that follows the rather cumbersome life of teenage nobody Jude. While years have passed since the drowning of his younger sister, the reader still gets the sense that the family has never moved on from the tragedy, partially because it seems the community doesn't want them to forget. Yet Jude is determined to continue his life to the best of his ability.
Enter best friend & wild card Corey as well as Jude's summer job. The reader gets the sense that Jude just wants to be a normal teenager, but continues to find himself in awkward situations where he's not entirely sure what is expected of him. Naturally there is also a girl, causing even more anxiety & confusion for this poor guy. The best part about all this gawkiness are the interactions between characters. They are so real & on point that I really felt like I knew what the characters were thinking & feeling. The writing, while a little obvious that the author is new to writing specifically for teens, still lends itself to being friendly & engaging.
What I didn't expect at all was the twist. We're not talking M. Night Shyamalan twist, but a big enough wrench that I wasn't exactly sure where the book could go from that point on. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself more impatient to continue reading after the twist. The book became so much more than I expected when I first picked it up.
While not a heavy read, this one merits some thoughtful consideration. Ladies & gents give it up for James Preller! I'd be happy to read his next piece.