Six years ago, when Jude was only nine years old, his little sister drowned when he was supposed to be watching her and since then, nothing has been the same. His mom has her prescription medications and his dad has his health and fitness obsession, but all that Jude has is his running, his guitar, and his best friend Corey. Then Jude gets a job working at a beach confession stand, where he meets Becka. But just as Jude is finally starting to live, his life spins out of control all over again. Before You Go by James Preller is about Jude's struggle, both before and after, and how he can either pick up the pieces, or let the darkness swallow him up.
I really hate factual inaccuracies in books, no matter how small, as I pointed out in my review of While He Was Away by Karen Schreck. In Before You Go, Jude is described as having his wisdom teeth out as a child. I've never met anyone in my life who had them done as a kid, only teenagers or later. Add in, the doctor uses nitrous oxide, which is rarely used anymore, and it wasn't quite the believable dental experience. Sure, it was only one page out of 200, but it's the sorta thing that really annoys me in books. Because if the tiny details aren't right, then who knows what else I'm missing.
There were quite a few things I did like about Before You Go. I thought that the male perspective was authentic and interesting, it was really neat reading how Jude starts to develop feelings for Becka, and I found their relationship really believable. What the novel is really about though, is grief and when it came to that I didn't find myself connecting with it emotionally the same way I did in See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles, which I had just read.
I did appreciate how Preller shows different reactions to the same situation, how the death of Jude's sister has changed his family and how even years down the road they are not the same, but Jude himself felt a bit flat at times. I think part of the difficulty is the writing. It works well for dramatic scenes like the car accident that begins the book, but there are other points where Preller's style becomes too distant and literary, when what I craved was something more raw.
Before You Go is a really sad book, and there's a bit of a twist to it that made it even sadder than I expected– but somehow none of that really manage to tear my heart out. The part of the story I found the most tragedy in had nothing to do with death at all, and that was the relationship between Jude and Becka. While so much of the grief is dramatic and big actions, the love story is subtle and moving. In the end, I'm definitely conflicted about Before You Go; it's a short little read full of tragedy that didn't break my heart in the way I expected, mainly due to the distant writing, but I managed to find some light in the romance all the same.
Release Date: July 17th 2012 Pages: 199 Format: E-galley
Source: NetGalley/Publisher Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Buy It: Book Depository