Life Before by Michele Bacon is an engaging tale of a young man on the cusp of what he believes to be the best time of his life. He was a fantastic best friend, his dream girl is interested in him, and his mom is finally separated from his abusive father. Of course, drama needs to happen to keep up a story, and Bacon does not disappoint. I always like reading YA tales from a male perspective as I don’t think we see it enough. Sometimes it really works and sometimes it doesn’t. This is one where, for the most part, it worked. There were a few moments that made me hope that real boys would act differently, but the story stood up well.
The plot of Life Before was intriguing. A teen boy on the run from his family’s secrets armed with a fake ID, some cash and a hunting knife. I did enjoy the writing of Michele Bacon. She can really speak in a male voice and she was able to pull of some situations that should have been ridiculous well. The pacing had a few issues where it jumped around a bit. It did always catch itself up, but there were time where I was not sure what day we were in. The world built was nice and detailed once Xander left home. I enjoyed seeing the locations through his eyes. There were a lot of emotions in the book. Xander was portrayed well and I enjoyed that as a teen boy, he had feelings. There were a few times that his feelings did not quite match the situation he was in, but again teen boy. The characters were half and half for me. I like that this was told from the perspective of Xander, as I don’t think there are enough YA stories from a male perspective. At times I loved Xander and wanted to hold him and tell him everything would be alright, and then I wanted to shake him for being just stupid. It was pretty much the same with every character. They would have fantastic moments, and then just crappy ones.
While I was engaged with Life Before, I was also frustrated at times with the lead Xander. I understood his motivations, but I always get annoyed when a teen heads off to “fix” something on their own. The majority of times, if they went to an adult or the authorities the problem would be fixed. There would be no story or no drama either, so it is a careful balance that the author must use. At times this story tipped into the ridiculous and as an adult I was annoyed. This happens at times when, as an adult, I read a YA book that has a plot point that I just don’t get. I always try to temper my reaction with the fact that I am not the key audience for the read. This was Michele Bacon’s début, and I think it did work overall and I will be interested in seeing what she writes next.
I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.