For sixteen years, Corey and Kyra have been friends. Together they roamed the forests of Lost Creek, Alaska, went to school together and spent their free time together. Then, six months ago, Corey moved away with her mother and younger brother and left Kyra alone. Alone in a town who hated the girl because she was different. Her maniac-depressive behaviour irritated the 250 inhabitants of the small city; she was at best invisible, at worst an outsider. Two days before Corey is due to visit, Kyra is found dead. Beneath the ice of a lake in mid-winter. For Corey this is not only a shock, but unbelievable. Kyra cannot be dead and she would never have killed herself so shortly before her arrival. Her suspicion grows the closer she comes to her former hometown and finally there, she is not greeted with unanimous joy.
Marieke Nijkamp’s novel is set against the Alaskan winter which perfectly reflects the mood of the novel. The atmosphere is gloomy and often spooky throughout the story and at times it actually gave me the creeps. It is a wonderful merge of a young adult novel and a thriller.
Yet, first of all, it is a novel about friendship. Corey remembers her time with Kyra, the good ones and the bad ones and she is ruminating about the question if she has left her friend, left her alone with the ill-natured people of Lost Creek who resented her with her escapades. Could she have prevented a possible suicide or even murder of her friend? A tough question for a sixteen-year-old girl alone and face to face with a whole hostile town.
On the other hand, it is a novel about life in a reclusive community who considers people who moved away outsiders after only a short time and who are hard to anybody who does not fit in their world-view. Where people do not talk much to somebody who does not belong to the inner circle. And a community who lives to its own laws and values. After only a couple of months, Corey does not understand them anymore, does not recognise the people she once loved anymore.
Looming above all this is the question what happened to Kyra. Did she really change after Corey left? Did the people actually change in the last couple of weeks? Or is this just the story Corey is told to hide the truth.
The author has a great talent in making you feel with the protagonist, I experienced this when I read her novel “This is where it ends” about a school shooting, too. “Before I let go” is a quick read that I enjoyed a lot.