Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Disclaimer: As someone with mental illness, I loved this book. That being said, my mental disorders don't match up to Kyra's completely and not all people with mania are the same. Be careful when picking this book up if it's something you suffer with.

Trigger warnings: Suicide, mania, ableism, cultism

SynopsisBest friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town's lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she's a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter...

Review: I loved this book so much. I apologize if this becomes a weird, gushy review. I just had so many feelings when I read this book. And I read it twice. Corey finds herself back in Lost Creek after hearing news of her best friend, Kyra's death. First of all, Kyra's last name is Henderson, and my last name is Henderson. So, that was eerie. I really appreciated Corey and Kyra's relationship. We get snippets of what they were like together. There was even a scene where Corey and Kyra share an awkward kiss and Corey tells Kyra she isn't attracted to anyone. The word "asexual" isn't used, but it's implied. I greatly appreciated this, and the weirdness that followed right after the kiss felt genuine. Reading a character with mania was a new experience. I don't have that particular disorder, so I don't know how accurate it is, but I did see some similarities between Kyra's mania and my depression. There's even a scene where Corey makes a light joke about something sounding depressing and Kyra got hurt by this remark. Things like that are not normally pointed out in books, so I appreciated Kyra's honesty in that moment. Individually, the characters were not perfect, but the way they built off of each other was impressive.

As for the story, I think a lot of people have been going into this book expecting a mystery of some kind. I didn't do that, and I think that helped me enjoy this book a bit more. Some chapters were written like normal prose, and other chapters were written like play scripts. This was a neat writing choice, though it might not be for everyone. I also flew through this book, again, twice. It was incredibly quick to read, but it also left a mark on me. I grew up in a small town, but not quite as small as Lost Creek. Some parts of the story seemed a bit farfetched, but other parts were spot on. There's a weird part where the town, even Kyra's parents, act like they're in some kind of a cult. While this might seem completely out there, small towns are very tight-knit and people in them do tend to have similar mindsets. Actually treating the town like it was a cult might have been going a bit too far, but there are elements to a cult that I have similarly seen in small towns. The thing that kept blowing me away with this book, and marking it as a favorite, was how mental health was handled. Again, speaking as someone who has come from a small town, when you have a mental health disorder, no one wants to be around you. You are treated like you are wrong or have a disease. It hurts. The town encourages you to ignore your pain and not seek help. This is a constant theme in Before I Let Go. The town continues to treat Kyra like her mental health isn't important, or they can benefit from it. It hurt a lot seeing Kyra go through this, but I also understand it all too well.

Before I Let Go can be a scary book for people with mental illness to read, but it can also be extremely impactful. Go in with an open mind if this is something you are willing to read.

5 howls