book review

Book Review: Before

BEFORE by J. Kilburn is a gripping coming-of-age tale entwined with small town complications. Check out what Manik Chaturmutha's book review of this indie author YA novel.

Book Review: Before

Reviewed by Manik Chaturmutha

A gripping coming-of-age tale entwined with small town complications

Kilburn weaves this teenage story with threads of secrets. Before’s slow pace engages readers on an engrossing journey through adulthood,.

This novel revolves around three teenagers: Bruce, Brittany, and Tabitha. Bruce moves from Canada to a small town in New England for his university experience. In that small town lives sixteen-year-old Brittany, who wants to moves to her grandmother’s farmhouse and to start living an independent life. There she meets Tabitha, a new friend who reveals feelings for her and who inspires her to explore her sexuality.

Brittany and Tabitha’s complicated relationship gets much more tangled when Bruce encounters Brittany. Brittany develops feelings for both, and the tension is thick. It leads to heartbreaks, wrong decisions, and fistfights. As she explores her newfound freedom, she must confront the entanglement head on, as she has never learned to lose. 

Beneath all their everyday problems simmers something much more grave. Someone sets their eye on Bruce. Bruce becomes a candidate or a pawn for something much more sinister than these kids ever imagined. 

This first book in a series does an exceptional job of introducing the characters and their intermingling lives. And the characters are exceptionally well written. The teenagers feel like real teenagers: their mannerisms, thoughts, fears, heartbreaks, and anger. Each character has authenticity. Even the side characters have their own distinct characteristics. 

The relationships portrayed here are excellent. There’s an acute portrayal of parental abuse and how it shapes children; the love of a grandma who gives proper advice but gives enough space to make one’s own decision; and the struggle of a parent with a growing child. 

Most of all, I love the sex positivity some parents have in this book. It’s refreshing to read. The conversations are natural too. Before nails the depiction of a small town with its gossip and rumors. The novel’s writing style, characters, and events are enough to keep you hooked. 

The story does stumble a bit with distracting capitalization words and a need to know Bruce more. There isn’t much of a crime bent in the book either, despite a promise in the description, but as it is the first book, I’d expect there’s more to come in this department.

Before will transport you to the complicated lives of small town teenagers. With a slow but tantalizing pace, this coming-of-age story is going to be tough to put down for fans of character-driven fiction.

Genre: Young Adult / Coming of Age

Print Length: 522 pages

ISBN: 978-0578379180


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