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Before My Eyes Hardcover – February 11, 2014
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Claire's mother had a stroke and is in a rehab hospital, but the insurance money has run out. She's been stuck taking care of her six year old sister Izzy all summer, while her father practically lives at the hospital. While she loves Izzy, she really wants to be a teen, not an adult and it might be nice to have someone care about her, too.
Max has been stuck working at the Snack Shack all summer, instead of having fun like all his preppy friends. It was his father's idea because it would make the family look good during Dad's re-election campaign for the state senate. It doesn't help that his back is killing him and he's had to resort to stealing his father's pain pills, nor does working with Trish and Peter help his self-esteem. Communication at home is pretty bad and he feels adrift.
Barkley also works at the Snack Shack, but doesn't interact much, or fit in at all. He spends most of his time in his head, listening to a voice that urges him to act on an impulse that's really scary. He was expelled from the local community college after attacking a teacher. His days involve avoiding bathing or drinking water, playing violent video games on his computer and sending letters and emails about environmental issues.
Told in alternating chapters, the book takes readers inside each of the three main characters' heads as they move toward a terrible event on Labor Day. By the time the story reaches its climax, you have a very good understanding of all three characters as well as most of the minor ones. Developmentally disabled Peter and overweight Trish become both likable and very sympathetic players near the end. Part unusual love story, part portrait of a person succumbing to a serious mental illness, this is a griping read that has moments of violence that might make younger teens very uncomfortable. For everyone else, it's a very well-crafted and hard to put down read.
A political rally. A gun. A twenty-one year old paranoid schizophrenic. A plan that only makes sense in his jumbled mind. Shots.
BEFORE MY EYES starts off with a literal bang. We know that Snack Shack worker Barkley brings a gun to the reelection rally of his coworker, sixteen-year-old Max's state senator father. Arriving at the rally just in time for the rally, Claire, Max's crush and the object of Barkley's obsession.
Told in the POVs of Barkley, Max and Claire, Carolyn Bock has created three very different characters who interact over Labor Day weekend with tragic consequences. I was drawn into the story immediately, curious who had been shot, who lived and who did not survive. I connected most with Claire, who has spent the summer watching her energetic six-year-old sister after their mother's stroke. Although she presented a depressed and weary POV, her voice seemed appropriate. Max was my favorite character, the most complex who had the most growth over the long weekend. Having worked with paranoid schizophrenics as a psychologist, I thought Barkley's chapters showed too much organized thinking for someone on the cusp of a psychotic break. He showed almost no clinical paranoid that was mentioned. His chapters should have been shorter and more disorganized or perhaps written in 3rd person with his jumbled thoughts in italics. I also thought Barkley should have either been obsessed with Claire or with making his political point to be more clinically accurate. Most unmediated schizophrenics in his state wouldn't be organized enough to switch back and forth between focuses. Bock did a good job explaining that the mentally ill aren't more violence that the general population (if fact, they're more likely to be victims and perpetrators of violent crimes). My biggest criticism is that Barkley's parents were caricatures of old stereotypes of parents who were thought to have caused their children's mental illnesses.
BEFORE MY EYES held my interest from beginning to end. I cared about Max and Claire and their journeys. I couldn't connect to Barkley, but I think that was Bock's idea, to illustrate his difficulty relating to others and developing relationships.
Themes: schizophrenia, mental illness, parent and teen relationships, drug abuse, bullying.
I recommend BEFORE MY EYES as an interesting, quick read, but not as a primer for understanding schizophrenia.
After the first chapter, the author shows us through flashback how three teenagers are connected: Max, the state senator's son who struggles with feelings of inferiority and a growing dependence on pain killers; Claire, a girl from the other side of town whose mother just recently had a stroke and who desperately wants someone to notice and love her; and Barkley, the mentally ill young man who thinks the world will be grateful to him for "righting wrongs"...so much so that he's bought a gun that he intends to use at the Labor Day event with the state senator.
I read this book in a matter of a few hours. I just couldn't put it down. I had a feeling I would enjoy it since I read her first book, Lie, and found that book riveting as well. What I really loved about this book is the author's ability to pull me right into the story along with her characters. I really started to like the characters, empathize with them, and fear for them. The stakes get ratcheted higher and higher until the ultimate climax, when the pages really fly. Read it and you'll be hooked too.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Claire is in the middle of a downward spiral. Her mom is recovering from a stroke, her dad is never home, and she is raising her younger sister.Read more