[ARC Review] Before My Eyes

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Title: Before My Eyes
Author: Caroline Bock
Series: Standalone
Genre: YA Contemporary
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Release Date: February 11th 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: ARC received by Publisher in exchange for an honest review

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From the author of LIE, a powerful new young adult novel about a fateful Long Island summer and the lives of three young people who will never be the same.

Dreamy, poetic Claire, seventeen, has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed recovering from a stroke. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets “Brent” online. Brent appears to be a kindred spirit, and Claire is initially flattered by his attention. But when she meets Max, the awkward state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated.

Max, also seventeen, has been working the worst summer job ever at the beachside Snack Shack. He’s also been popping painkillers. His parents—more involved in his father’s re-election than in their son’s life—fail to see what’s going on with him.

Working alongside Max is Barkley, twenty-one. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head. No one—not his parents, not his co-workers—realizes that Barkley is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Until the voice in his head orders him to take out his gun.

Narrated in turns by Claire, Max, and Barkley, Before My Eyes captures a moment when possibilities should be opening up, but instead everything teeters on the brink of destruction.

Contemporary Fiction can take on many forms, it can be lighthearted and fun, but it can also be very dark and deal with situations that many would not like to read about. And Before My Eyes is the later version. This book is dark, but also has moments of lighthearted-ness, told in three perspectives, it tells the story of three teens who are troubled in very different ways, yet somehow have commonalities.

Claire is a young woman dealing with the aftermath and guilt of witnessing her mothers stroke and not being able to do much about it. And the fact that her father had pretty much left her in charge of the house and her little sister, something she would rather not have to deal with. Reading her story made me feel extremely bad for, and yet I understood her fathers point of view as well. Her mother was in rehab, the money was short and he did not have time to take care of everything else. Yet Claire, being only a teenager only saw it as him abandoning her and her sister. And reading her hatred for him and in some ways her mother, was hard.

Max is a completely different story to Claire, yet similar in some respects. He is the son of two very powerful Politicians who seem to care more for the campaign then they do their son. And Max also being addicted to pain killers after a soccer accident doesn't help things much. Although his story is not as tragic as some other, it is still hard to read. His parents seem to care more about their public life then their home life and Max seems to be the one left out of the equation.

Barkley was probably the hardest character to read because he was the catalyst for this entire story. He is the beginning middle and end. We first meet him as he is walking through Max's fathers campaign tent with a gun in his pocket, ready to make everyone understand him. Yet it is what happens in the middle of the story that is the most gut wrenching. In the middle if the story we are brought back to the summer before the campaign and it is here that we read how disturbed Barkley was, and how much he was seeking love and attention from those around him. I think the hardest part about reading his point of view was the fact that as readers, we knew he had a mental disability, yet everyone around him just seemed to think he was odd. Even his parents did not pay that much attention to him, and did not see the signs and I think that is what broke me the most.

This story is not one to be taken lightly, it is hard to read in places, yet uplifting in others. I loved the way that these three characters intertwined into each other's life and changed each other forever. It is not every day that you read a book that changes you, but this one will.

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