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Before My Eyes Hardcover – February 11, 2014
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—The summer before his senior year, Max, 17, is disillusioned with his New York state senator father and ambitious mother. He has grown tired of and dissatisfied with his planned-out life and doesn't quite know what his next step should be. He works at the Snack Shack at a Long Island beach, where he is surrounded by a motley crew, including his strange coworker Barkley. Max just wants the summer to be over. Seventeen-year-old Claire has her own set of problems and has had to grow up quickly. Her mother had a stroke, leaving Claire to keep the house, cook, watch over her younger sister, and share money woes with her father. All she wants is to be understood. This summer, Barkley, 21, has reached his limit and gives in to his darker nature and the voices he hears in his head. Over a Labor Day weekend, Claire's, Max's, and Barkley's lives come together. The three are forever changed when Barkley brings a gun to a political event. The first-person narrators speak with unique voices, and their tales entwine to create a compelling story. Bock has crafted a suspenseful and intense novel that is sure to keep readers turning the pages.—Elizabeth Jakubowski, formerly at Watervliet Public Library, NY
Bock (Lie, 2011) returns to Long Island for this moody, dread-filled microdrama that resists easy classification. In a way, it’s an almost–love triangle: Claire, 16, is processing guilt connected to her mother’s recent stroke; she meets Max, a state senator’s shiftless son with a burgeoning addiction to pain pills. Max buys these pills from 21-year-old coworker Barkley, who is losing touch with reality in his secret obsession with Claire. This tale is told from the three points of view, each one suitably different but sharing Bock’s polished second-by-second prose—thick paragraphs filled with short sentences that possess the quality of flash photography or stage directions: “The winds pick up. The trees rustle. I didn’t expect to find myself here. I really didn’t.” We know from the prologue that the story concludes with a shooting at a political event; the book, then, concerns itself less with plot—little about the story will surprise—and instead impresses with a series of elegantly conceived scenes of character building. The right readers will find themselves lost in the strange spell. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus
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Max and Claire are not without their problems as well, but theirs are very different. Claire's mother had a stroke at a very early age and required care in a rehab hospital/nursing center. Claire then becomes responsible for her sister Izzy who is only 6. The girls' father has set up camp in the hospital, rarely leaving his wife's side while the girls run the house.
Max is tied to his job and wants more than the usual linear life that has more or less been planned out for him. High school graduation, college, college graduation, career, profession. Max dislikes his summer job, but his father who is running for the senate feels it will reflect well on the family's image if his son has an "ordinary" job. Max spends long hours on his feet which aggravates his back pain. He in turn steals his father's pain killers.
Barkley has a multitude of problems. He is actively psychotic and his mental state is not helped by his tendency to play violent video games and rant about environmental issues to anybody and nobody in particular. He responds to his hallucinatory voices as if they are real. To him they are. The voices have led him astray in the past including an act which resulted in an expulsion.
Each one of these very different characters has a turn at bat in narrating their story. Max's biggest problem is a breakdown in communication at home. Claire suffers from too much responsibility at too early an age and concern over her mother's well being. Barkley has schizophrenia and some of his more bizarre ideations include a fear of water. He refuses to drink it or bathe as water is all part of his rants about environmental issues.
I did have trouble with Max's parents as they did not communicate much with their son. Max's father was focused on being reelected to the senate and Max's mother had her eye on running for Congress. The one thing I found ludicrous about them was when they forced birthday parties on their reluctant son and then failed to stay at the house and supervise. How irresponsible is that? I also didn't like the way Barkley's mother talked to him as if he were a toddler. To add insult to injury, she was still taking him to a pediatrician and he was 21 years old!
This is an excellent book and when it became available I grabbed it. Each one of these characters are sympathetic and realistic. A large part of their appeal is that they are not perfect. There are moments that include violence. Each one of these characters, including ones who arrive later in the story comes equipped with a lot of baggage, hubris and heart.
The Eurythmic's 1983 hit "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This" could well underscore this story.
Claire is 17 and is in charge of her little sister since her mom had a stroke and her father basically lives at the hospital. Max, also 17, is the son of a senator. Barkley is a bit of a loner who's only real relationships are the ones with the voices in his head. They all work together at a place called the Snack Shack during the summer, but not much happens between them until a political rally on Labor Day brings things to a shocking standstill.
The story tells us how each of these three people deal with their own emotional and mental burdens. Clair is depressed and overwhelmed being left in charge of the house and her six year old sister while her father is at the hospital every possible moment. Max feels bullied and used by his father whom he feels is using him just to further his political ambitions. Barkley struggles with schizophrenia and the voices in his head. Should he do what he knows is right, or give in and stop fighting the what the voices are telling him to do? While reading, my mind kept questioning what was going on in the story. Why didn't Claire's dad realize he needed to fight for his daughters as much as he was fighting for his wife? Why didn't Max understand that having a parent in politics meant being a puppet for the public? Didn't his father care enough to keep his son out of the press spotlight until he was mature enough to deal with it? How could Barkley's parents not do more for him? Didn't anyone else have concerns about Barkley and his increasing withdrawal from everyone? I appreciate that Ms. Bock doesn't give easy, simplistic answers and presents people in a realistic way. Claire's dad likely would be so consumed with fear and grief that he thought of little else but his wife. Max's father may have assumed Max was used to the public eye and on board with doing what he could to help his father's political career, especially if Max never spoke up. And when it comes to tragic events, hindsight is always 20/20. People then see how things could have been done differently, what choices could have been made to avoid the event. Ms. Bock has given readers a fictitious but quite realistic story that will stay with you.
I do wish Ms. Bock had given us more of Barkley's story, or at least the same share given to Claire and Max. The personal stories of each character are reflective of what many readers have experienced in their own lives. An absent parent (or parents), a sick relative, pressure to do things they don't want to do, massive amounts of stress, coping with mental illness that is either their own or of someone they love. Though the subject matter is serious and rather mature, this is a good book for older teens (14-15+) to read and discuss with their parents. No one truly knows what they would do when placed in a certain situation, but talking about and knowing options ahead of time could make a big difference.
Most recent customer reviews
A political rally. A gun. A twenty-one year old paranoid schizophrenic. A plan that only makes sense in his jumbled mind. Shots.Read more
Each character narrates their own story. Claire's mother has had a stroke. This has left her disabled and in a rehab facility.Read more