Title: Before My Eyes
Author: Caroline Bock
Genre: YA contemporary
Source: Publisher (ARC)
In Caroline Bock’s Before My Eyes, Claire has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets a guy online who appears to be a kindred spirit. Claire is initially flattered by the attention but when she meets Max, the shy state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated. Working alongside Max at a beachfront food stand is Barkley. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head.
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.
Thank you to Raincoast Books for a copy of this book for review!
When I first read the synopsis for this book, I was very intrigued. The story sounded like it was going to be insanely gripping and unputdownable. Unfortunately, it fell quite flat for me.
I think the problem lies in the fact that the story isn’t that long, the time frame of things happening is very short, and the characters aren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked, nor did I feel like I could connect with any of them. For me, I like to feel like I can connect with at least something in a story, but I found myself not liking anyone in particular, save for King, Max’s blind dog.
When it came to the writing of these characters, I felt like Max and Claire’s voices were quite similar and all the characters had that same flowery kind of thought processes (though Barkley’s was a bit more jarring). I found myself skimming over some of it just wanting something exciting to happen, rather than feeling like I’m trapped in these characters’ heads. We really don’t get a lot of story on these characters — there are things mentioned and, yeah, things do happen, but it all happens so quickly and some of it is just resolved way too fast. The resolution of the story also comes to mind and I found myself wanting more answers by the end of the story than I had originally wanted in the beginning.
I’m still not really sure what to think of the Barkley character and still think that a lot of his actions were contradictory to his thoughts. He had ideas that he had to be “pure” and couldn’t let any chemicals touch his body, but then would eat chips and salsa until he was sick. It just didn’t make sense to me. He was probably the most confusing character in the story and I think that’s how it was supposed to be, but his actions just let to frustration in me, as the reader, by the end of the story. There’s the big question of why? but it felt like things were left a little too open — and maybe the story ending on too much of a happier note than I would’ve liked.
I think my issue with the entire story is just that it was too subdued. There was a lack of action, but a lot of build up. The stories wove together well, with the three narrators, but the lack of connection, not being able to side with any one character, made me put down the book more, rather than want to read through it in a few sittings. Had the action been picked up, had the writing been a little more riveting, I’m betting that the story really could’ve been a page-turner, but for me, it wasn’t as good as i had hoped.
However, don’t take my word for it because just looking at the book’s ratings and reviews of it on Goodreads, lots of people love the story and I’m in the minority. Maybe it was my state of mind, or maybe it just wasn’t the book for me. I suggest trying it out for yourself to find out if it’s the book for you. It’s still quite a disturbing story, so be ready for that.