Jessie's Reviews > Before I Let Go

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp
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really liked it
bookshelves: ace-spectrum, aro-spec

The setting is one of the best parts of this book. The physical places -- natural and human-made -- really come through, and they're important. They're sometimes beautiful, sometimes peaceful, sometimes terrifying, sometimes confusing.

Corey and Kyra's friendship felt so real and important and somehow both strong and fragile, like a Prince Rupert's drop. I've had a friendship like that (though it looked different), so I appreciated seeing that tension on page.

I really appreciated Eileen, Roshan, Sam, and Aaron as side characters. And of all the other people in Lost, I found Piper in particular to be the creepiest.

I do wish we knew more about Corey. I feel like I know her voice really well as a reader, and her relationship with Kyra over the past few years, but I only know a few other facts or stories about her. But ultimately, this feels like a book about Kyra and Corey-and-Kyra more than one about Corey, so I think that's okay.

I feel Corey's reaction to the kiss so, so hard. I also really appreciated that Corey and Kyra talked about it, that they both tell the truth and don't want to lose each other. There were so many other times when they weren't fully honest with each other, but I was glad that this wasn't one.

Corey is ace and I think meant to be questioning aro (and she's definitely aro-coded), but the first is addressed directly, and the second really isn't. There are a lot of people for whom those are closely tied, so that may be true to many people's experiences. But given the on-page ace rep, I was disappointed that there was aro coding without any on-page mention of aromanticism. Here are the quotes most relevant to the ace rep and aro coding:
"I never had crushes." (aro coding)
"I didn't see the appeal of Kyra's favorite actors, who she thought were hot." (ace coding)
"My heart didn't flutter at the sight of a cute guy -- or girl -- smiling." (probably ace coding)
"I'm not attracted to you. I don't think I've ever been attracted to anyone. That's not how it works for me." (unclear what kind of attraction)
"I love you, but I'm not in love with you." ("in love" seems to say that Corey isn't romantically attracted to Kyra)
"She wanted to understand us, she said, and she came back with a whole list of orientations and identities. It was the first time I'd seen asexuality spelled out, and I found myself in the description." (only place asexuality is used on-page)

I was glad that the last quote meant that the word asexuality appeared. It falls close to an unfortunate trope -- of an allo person giving an ace person the word for themselves -- but it circumvents it somewhat. Corey gets to claim the word, but it's Kyra who goes looking and offers it up. I wouldn't even mention this if it weren't really common in books with ace rep for the ace to learn about asexuality from an allo. I think this was done okay, but ymmv.
(This same scene also makes me question the aro coding. It's where I really wish aromanticism had just been mentioned as a possibility!)

Ace and other queer rep related ETA, with spoilers: (view spoiler)

There's one instance of "more than friendship" where Corey is wishing she'd been (romantically?) attracted to Kyra, even though she knows -- even though Kyra had explicitly said -- they'd have been miserable if they'd tried to change for each other.
There was also this, talking about the moment before they kiss: "But seeing her there made me want to be closer to her than the love and friendship we already shared." This is pretty much the same sentiment as "more than friends." It pretty heavily implies that a romantic and/or physical relationship makes you closer to someone than a friendship can, even though it describes their friendship is a kind of love.
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Reading Progress

February 9, 2017 – Shelved
January 2, 2018 – Started Reading
January 2, 2018 –
January 3, 2018 – Finished Reading

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