I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.Life Before by Michele Bacon
Published by Sky Pony Press on June 7, 2016
Genres: Abuse, Dysfunctional Relationships, Runaways
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Seventeen years is a long time to keep secrets, and Xander Fife has gotten very good at it.
Everyone believes Xander has a normal life and 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.
Even better, his plans for summer are awesome: lots of pick-up soccer, relaxing afternoons with friends, and an epic road trip. Xander is banking on some long-overdue nights with his ideal girlfriend, the amazing Gretchen Taylor.
Instead of kicking off what had promised to be an amazing summer, however, graduation day brings terror. His family’s secrets are thrust out into the open, and Xander must confront his greatest fear. And survive doing so.
Armed with a fake ID, cash, and a knife, Xander skips town and assumes a new identity. Hundreds of miles from home and in danger, one thing is clear: Xander’s real life is already in progress and just getting through it isn’t enough.
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 really works and sometimes it doesn’t. This is one where, for the most part, it worked. There were a few moments that made me hope that real boys would act differently, but the story stood up well.
The plot of Life Before was intriguing. A teen boy on the run from his family’s secrets armed with a fake ID, some cash and a hunting knife. I did enjoy the writing of Michele Bacon. She can really speak in a male voice and she was able to pull of some situations that should have been ridiculous well. The pacing had a few issues where it jumped around a bit. It did always catch itself up, but there were time where I was not sure what day we were in. The world built was nice and detailed once Xander left home. I enjoyed seeing the locations through his eyes. There were a lot of emotions in the book. Xander was portrayed well and I enjoyed that as a teen boy, he had feelings. There were a few times that his feelings did not quite match the situation he was in, but again teen boy. The characters were half and half for me. I like that this was told from the perspective of Xander, as I don’t think there are enough YA stories from a male perspective. At times I loved Xander and wanted to hold him and tell him everything would be alright, and then I wanted to shake him for being just stupid. It was pretty much the same with every character. They would have fantastic moments, and then just crappy ones.
While I was engaged with Life Before, I was also frustrated at times with the lead Xander. I understood his motivations, but I always get annoyed when a teen heads off to “fix” something on their own. The majority of times, if they went to an adult or the authorities the problem would be fixed. There would be no story or no drama either, so it is a careful balance that the author must use. At times this story tipped into the ridiculous and as an adult I was annoyed. This happens at times when, as an adult, I read a YA book that has a plot point that I just don’t get. I always try to temper my reaction with the fact that I am not the key audience for the read. This was Michele Bacon’s début, and I think it did work overall and I will be interested in seeing what she writes next.
Favorite lines – Maybe that’s what life is: a series of tearing your heart into tiny pieces and giving them to other people. Maybe as soon as you detach yourself from someone you love, you can never be whole again. Okay. So what part of my heart is mine?
Biggest cliché – I don’t need anyone’s help.
Have you read Life Before, or added it to your TBR?
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- 2016 Debut Author Challenge
- 2016 New Release Challenge
- Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge
- The Goodreads Challenge