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Life Before

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  226 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Seventeen years is a long time to keep secrets, so Xander Fife is very good at it: everyone believes he has a normal family. If he can just get through this summer, he'll start his real life in college with a clean slate--no risk, no drama, no fear.

Xander’s summer plans include pick-up soccer, regular hijinks with friends, an epic road trip, and—quite possibly— the company
Published 2016 by Sky Pony Press
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3.73  · 
Rating details
 ·  226 ratings  ·  50 reviews

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Karen Hattrup
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When I was young, I always loved YA books that were about running away – and had this one been around back then, I’m sure I would have devoured it in a single sitting. LIFE BEFORE is a fast-paced, emotional read that tells the story of Xander Fife, who has just graduated from high school only to find himself on the run from family trauma. His voice is real, honest, and funny, even as he’s wrestling with some of the darkest memories you could imagine. His journey is a compelling one, fraught with ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: realistic, ya, high-school
"On the run from a killer" - that sounds like an action flick, right?
But this is a book about the nitty-gritty.

Instead of running around athletically like a "hero" from one of those flicks, Xander is focusing on surviving under the radar.
Where will he sleep? How will he get food? How will he communicate with his home to find out if he's safe to go back?

I'm not sure if the author intended this, but in 2017, for me, this was a book about living undocumented.
And about logistics.

How do you connect
Janet McNally
May 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book. Kids in abusive families are often forced to grow up before they should have to, but for Xander, the biggest change in his life comes in one harrowing moment. It's enough to make him give up everything, and watching that happen--reading this book--is really difficult at times. That's because his character is so well-drawn and realistic, as are the rest of the characters and the world around him. Xander has to figure out how to survive on his own, and the story of how he doe ...more
Caleb Roehrig
Mar 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
With LIFE BEFORE, Michele Bacon has created a thoughtful and stirring portrait of a boy forced to grow up practically overnight. When his dark past erupts into tragedy, Xander Fife must leave behind his friends, his hometown, and everything he knows, and go on the run; flinging himself headlong into what he first views as a terrible limbo - a meager and fugitive existence eked out in fits and starts as he waits for a dangerous situation to resolve itself - he soon discovers things about life, an ...more
M.A. Nichols
Mar 19, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abuse, young-adult, drama
Disappointing. That's the best word to describe this book. From the description, I expected a story about a runaway trying to survive mixed with a dash of thriller and a heavy dose of abuse and family drama. What I got was a story that had the elements of all that, but with little plot, slow pacing, and more of a focus on dating and girls than the hardships of surviving on the street (which the story glosses over quite a bit, not to mention that for most of the time the kid is able to find nice ...more
Grace P. (gracefulreads)
3.5 Stars rounded up to 4!

LIFE BEFORE is a powerful and truthful novel. It tackles abuse, death, friendship, and romance in under 300 pages. I think that at the heart of this novel is a coming of age story that will make you feel. Xander growing as a character and figuring out who he wants to be was really inspiring. This book is unforgiving in the tragedies and abuse that Xander faces, and that shocked me a bit in the beginning. The characters were very intriguing and multi-dimensional which I
Oct 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Life Before is a novel, written by Michele Bacon, about the crazy life of a boy named Xander Fife. During his childhood, he struggled with the emotional and physical pain of his abusive father. After many years of Xander and his mom getting beaten, the mother finally got a divorce from him. From that point on, Xander had a pretty normal life, attending high school, playing soccer, and hanging out with friends. But on the night of his graduation, things went downhill very quickly. All of sudden, ...more
Adriana Mather
May 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book has it all; adventure, suspense, drama, and a great deal of heart. In this modern coming of age story, 17-year-old Alexander (Zander) Fife is intent on graduating high school and going off to college so that his real life can finally "begin." Zander's violent, abusive father has his own plans, though. Zander finds himself on the run and on his own for the first time.

Bacon does any amazing job navigating the emotional turmoil experienced by children who grow up in violent homes. Zander
Katie Kennedy
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Xander Fife is on the run--not because someone was killed and the killer is now after him, but because he thinks his flight will make his friends safer. Xander's a good guy.

His getaway adventures are populated with interesting secondary characters, from fry cooks to hippies to old women. (The first time he sees a naked woman will have you in stitches.)

But Xander can't hide forever, because a killer is after him--a very, very clever killer. When the ultimate showdown occurs, Xander proves again
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
I felt that a theme in this book was that it's never too late to discover new things about yourself. Xander is seventeen, just graduated from high school. He is just ready to escape his dad and the truth about his life. But then everything goes downhill, and Xander actually does run away. Running from the law( not really in an illegal way), his friends, his home, and most importantly his father he finds refuge in Burlington. But Xander has yet to realize that all at the same time he is running f ...more
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book and found myself picking it up at stop lights - in my dream world I would have cozied up on the couch and read this in one sitting. As it was, I still finished it in less than 24 hours. The book immerses the reader in the nuanced and complicated experiences of a teenager who grew up in an abusive home and undergoes an extreme trauma. I was concerned the book would be too dark and difficult for me, but instead it touched me deeply. Xander is so real in his struggles to fi ...more
Monica Tesler
Apr 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to read an ARC of Life Before. I zipped through this book. Xander's voice drew me in, and the author included just enough story about his "life before" that I was very invested in what happened when his world was turned upside down (no spoilers!). I loved his close network of friends both in his home in Ohio and his temporary home in Burlington. In particular, I thought Curt and Kat were great characters. This was a quick, suspenseful read with a hero worth rooting for!
Casey Lyall
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Tense and emotional with characters that draw you in. Great read.
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
3.5 Stars. First 10% was boring as well as the last 10% but everything in between was heartbreaking and interesting and some parts made my heart race. I probably won't ever reread this, but I'm glad I read it.
Jun 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Full review posted on my blog, Blackplume

Life Before tells an emotional and realistic story of Xander’s Fife – a teenage boy who has a violent and abusive father, Garry. Though Xander and his mother are not living anymore with Garry, they still both suffer from his mistreatment, which later resulted to his mother’s death, and him on the run, hiding and on his own for the first time in his life. How long can Xander outrun his father? Will Xander survive on his own with only a few cash, fake ID a
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book. It was hard to read because of the subject matter, but I couldn't put it down.

When Xander dares to warn his dad's new fiance about the hidden truth of his history of abuse, his dad strikes swift and hard, and suddenly Xander's mom is dead, and he's on the run from a murderer.

I was horrified at the monster that was Xander's dad, and horrified that it's so easy to hide something so horrific as the abuse he inflicted on his wife and son. It can be really hard to see things we don't
Jennifer Bardsley
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Life Before" is a deep, heartfelt book about domestic abuse that also manages to have moments of levity and joy that keep you reading more.

Xander and Jill have their whole summer planned out. Graduation ... road trips ... epic adventures ... this is supposed to be their last hurrah before college. But then Gary, Xander's father, ignores a restraining order and messes everything up. Xander is faced with a big question, that very well may be the first decision he has to make as an adult: "Now wha
Kathleen Glasgow
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An observant, emotional, and heartbreaking story of a boy trying to rise from the ashes of his past, only to be forced back into the life he doesn't want. Bacon is honest when describing the pain of child abuse and the terror and survival skills needed to survive on the street. Xander is a compelling, beautifully drawn character and teens will devour this sometimes scary, but always deeply felt story about confronting your past and surviving the future.
Interesting and definitely kept my attention. Full review can be found at Ash Reads Stuff.

Thanks to Edelwiess and Sky Pony Express for the ARC.
Stephanie Strohm
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Written by one of my Sky Pony sisters! Couldn't put it down - finished in a day! Made me miss Burlington <3
Oct 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, own, goodreads
This was a very interesting story that held my attention because it was something I could relate to. Xander and his mother live on their own since his abusive father was given a restraining order a few years ago. Xander's life with his mother has gotten better ever since. Only his best friend Jill knows all of the terrible things Xander's father has done. In a few days time everything falls apart again. Xander's father murder's his mother and Xander's world is shattered. The loss is a huge weigh ...more
Tony Nielsen
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Lori Spyker is heading into an unremarkable day, taking her kids to school, when she is stopped by the Police, who deliver the news that her brother, Scott Green, has been inured and is in hospital after a hit and run.

Trouble is Lori and Scott haven't been in touch with each other in years, yet according to the Police she's his only contact. What should she do, take responsibility. If she does that she will have to share a secret with her family, a secret she's kept hidden for so long.

When was a
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was definitely WAY more YA than I've read in a veryyyyy long time. As a result, I found it a bit dull and over-simplified, and lacking plot and character development. I really liked Xander, though. I felt deeply sorry for him and what he had been through, and his grief was so tangible that it really emanated off the pages. I was really rooting for him, and I thought Bacon wrote him very well. However, I found the other characters intensely 1-dimensional. Perhaps if I were reading it as ...more
Danielle Hunt
Dec 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
YA book by a new, up and coming author. I really enjoyed this book. It deals with some heavy stuff. Straight forward read, but very touching. Love the emotion from the characters. Looking forward to the author’s next book, Antipodes, which I already have sitting on my nightstand.
Janell Wheeler
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: abuse, stand-alone
I'm not even sure how I ended up with this book. I don't know if it was the cover that caught my eye or the blurb. Either way I'm not sorry I read it. If you look at most of my books I'm a romance novel kind of girl so this is a bit off the mark. BUT I must say I very much enjoyed this book. It grabbed me right off and I didn't want to put it down. Watching the growth of Xander was an amazing journey. I really liked the secondary characters and even though this book doesn't give you the HEA it g ...more
Shawntay F
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved This Book

This book is unlike anything I've read in a long time. I am so used to reading romance novels that leave me angry about bad dialogue for unrealistic situations. This book certainly was not that. This book took me on a series of emotions. I recommend this for everyone. This was the story of how no one ever really knows what goes on behind other peoples doors and the great lengths people to go through to hide some of the sadness in their life. It was a tough topic to write and read
May 31, 2016 rated it liked it
This review was originally posted on betterthanhere Life Before by Michele Bacon is an engaging tale of a young man on the cusp of what he believes to be the best time of his life. He was a fantastic best friend, his dream girl is interested in him, and his mom is finally separated from his abusive father. Of course, drama needs to happen to keep up a story, and Bacon does not disappoint. I always like reading YA tales from a male perspective as I don't think we see it enough. Sometimes it re ...more
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Michele Bacon’s contemporary young adult debut, Life Before, is a poignant journey of self discovery and ultimately, healing, for seventeen year old Xander Fife.

With his high school graduation just days away, Xander is looking forward to this final summer with his friends before his “real” life begins. He and his best friend, Jill Bernard, are looking planning a road trip, he is dating his longtime crush, Gretchen Taylor and best of all, a scholarship to Tulane means he can leave his small homet
Becky Hutchison
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult, suspense
LIFE BEFORE is a young adult suspense by Michele Bacon. The serious issues of physical and emotional abuse, homelessness, murder, and being forced to run for your life are just some of the topics touched upon in this book.

Xander Fife has been living with his mom, Helen, since her divorce from his abusive dad, Gary. Xander tries to live his life as a normal kid with a normal family. But he has secrets that he can't reveal, even to his best friend Jill.

One day Xander and Jill are planning their
Oct 10, 2016 rated it did not like it
Read review in its entirety at

Contemporary fiction facilitates hard realities in Michele Bacon's YA debut novel, Life Before. Told in first person, teen protagonist Xander is preparing for college, ready to begin what he believes will be the start of his real life, ready to leave his old one behind. His days of dealing with abuse at the hands of his father are all but in the past, but a new reality strikes and now he is running for his life.

“Right now, I
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