Before I Let Go
by Nijkamp, Marieke

Returning to her small Alaska home town after her bipolar best friend's death, Corey uncovers chilling secrets about the townspeople and their treatment of Kyra prior to her drowning.

*Starred Review* When Corey gets the call that her friend Kyra drowned in an iced-over lake, it's been seven months since the two of them talked, and Corey drops everything to return to the tiny, isolated town of Lost Creek, Alaska. She expected at least a bit of a warm welcome from the town she grew up in, but instead, she finds chilly demeanors and secret whispers, even from Kyra's own parents, whom Corey considered family. When Corey starts asking questions about Kyra's death, first she gets reluctant, enigmatic answers, and then she finds disturbing clues about Kyra's final days, as her bipolar disorder spiraled out of control. Nijkamp builds a captivatingly creepy atmosphere in her sophomore novel, with well-paced ghostly apparitions, lightly magical occurrences, and an eerie sense that someone's watching Corey at every turn. What's more terrifying, however, is Lost Creek's mistreatment of Kyra, even by her own parents, which is fueled by a twisted quest for hope. The horror trappings are certainly compelling, and they'll keep the pages turning, but at its core, Nijkamp's novel is a harsh rebuke of an all-too-common, troubling trope in many YA novels: fetishizing deeply creative, suicidal teens as "too bright to live." With exceptional handling of everything from mental illness to guilt, and a riveting, magic realist narrative, this well-wrought, haunting novel will stick with readers long after the final page. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

Seven months after Corey left her hometown of Lost Creek, Alaska, and her best friend, Kyra, behind, she returns, grief-stricken, to learn what caused Kyra's death. Expecting the comfort of shared grief over Kyra's loss, Corey's instead treated with coldness and suspicion. Kyra's parents house her with discomfort, and the more Corey probes for answers, the more opposition she faces and the more isolated she becomes. Their friendship had been strained by Kyra's intensifying bipolar disorder, their different ways of interpreting the world, and Kyra's unrequited romantic love for Corey, yet their bond endured until Corey moved away. Thereafter, Kyra painted obsessively—vibrant murals and vivid paintings in town and at the abandoned hot springs resort where she spent her last months. The community expresses new reverence for Kyra and her art, which they view as revitalizing the community's fortunes. Mysteries proliferate: what accounts for the abundant fresh salmonberry flo wers in January? Corey's isolation is compounded by both the isolated Alaska setting and a sense of horrors hidden in plain sight. What's missing is a connection between the two girls' complicated friendship and the archetypal horror narrative that fuels the tale's compulsive readability. The author's avoidance of clear references to Alaska's Native heritage belies the thematic insistence on the power of storytelling to shape the world. Settlers stole the land, readers are told, but the story of this thievery remains untold. Intriguingly spooky but never quite coheres. (Suspense. 12-16) Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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