Review: Before Life Happened by Isabel Curtis

**Also published on Goodreads**

Dear Reader;

This is one of those moments where I almost wished I simply hadn’t read this book so that I wouldn’t feel obliged to review it. But here I am. Here again, I have a book where I wish I could like it. I want to like it. I tried to like it. But I couldn’t. And it wasn’t because the topic was ridiculous or the intentions of the author were wrong, but because it simply wasn’t good. And I just hate that.

This is a 1.5 star rating. I received this book for free from the author for an honest review. (Unfortunately, this is going to be brutally honest, I think.)

So, I would actually rate this lower than I have except that I appreciated the intended outcome of the book. I liked that the focus wasn’t romance or popularity or being rich and famous. It was about going through trauma and having to live with yourself, which is especially hard as a teen. I also liked that she touched on a bit of everything: self harm, drug and alcohol abuse, rape, homosexuality, thoughts of suicide… the whole shebang.

But in the end, I think that might have been part of the problem.

This story had WAY too much going on. High school drug cartels? Gangs? Road trip? Rape (kind of just tagged on there as an afterthought, too)? Cutting? I mean, all important, but this was too short of a book to adequately deal with these issues.

Additionally, the writing was pretty poor. Not unsalvageable, but it needs a lot of work. The writing was stilted in 3rd and too loose in 1st. I didn’t have any attachment for Hayden and actually cared a lot more for her brothers despite not getting to know them nearly as well. The dialogue is all over the place, sometimes confusing, and just as stilted as the rest of the novel. (Why are so many new writers against contractions? Write like you speak, especially when it’s dialogue or 1st person… it’s okay to be casual.)

Honestly, I needed so much more from this book than what I got out of it. Hayden ended up a whiney, bratty character and everyone else was too underdeveloped to care about. The series of events was not only implausible, but also occasionally impossible (you can’t shoplift cigarettes unless you get behind the counter). And the writing wasn’t good enough to carry any of it.

I wish I could say otherwise, but I would not recommend this book.


E.C. Orr

P.S. Looking back on this review, I’m a little surprised that I gave this two stars (or rather 1.5 and rounded up). I wanted to leave a brief note here and say that I would never read this again. Ever. Not even for class. Because it was really not enjoyable. That being said, I think I gave this a higher rating because it dealt with some difficult subject matter. Even so, I wouldn’t really *recommend* it to anyone.

Book Information:

Before Life HappenedTitle: Before Life Happened
Author: Isabel Curtis
ISBN: 1523286156
Language: English
Approximate Length: 260 pages
Stars: ★★☆☆☆
I had a Kindle version given to me by the author (it had the duct taped duck cover).


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