Before I Disappear by Danielle Stinson

  Before I Disappear by Danielle Stinson, Macmillan, 9781250303196, 2019 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3.5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: YA, science fiction/adventure

What did you like about the book?  A stand-alone science fiction and survival story with a gutsy heroine and good character development. I need more books like this, which is why I gave it a 3.5. Rose, her brother Charlie and her mom are always moving, but she’d like to put down roots in Fort Glory, Oregon, home to the world’s largest atomic research collider. Unfortunately, things go Twilight Zone almost immediately as the town and Rose’s family disappear into the Fold, a weird envelope around a growing catastrophe. Working with several locals (including love interest, Ian) who all have dark secrets, Rose tries valiantly to save her little brother. The book pays homage to A Wrinkle in Time, with a missing dad, a dash of physics, and forces that can’t be explained. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? It was filled with action, but the characters never made much progress. Instead, they kept on being baffled, getting more lost and sustaining terrible injuries. The main tension came as they reveal their back stories, between frantic escapes from snow, fire and the gripping Darkness that threatens them.  The science was definitely murky, despite the presence of nerd friend Blaine, who kept trying (unsuccessfully) to explain the physics. While most chapters are told in the real world, as Rose and her comrades battle on, some chapters are told mystically by Charlie, who is in the Fold trying to keep the townspeople safe. These sections read like free verse and sadly, don’t clarify the plot. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  It reminded me a bit of books by Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not, They Both Die at the End) or A.S. King (Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future), which have fantasy or science fiction devices, but are actually about real life teen problems (love, abandonment, bullying, etc.) So, not likely to appeal to true SF fans, but possibly of interest to those grades 8 and up who aren’t interestested in a spaceship and aliens series.

Who should buy this book? High school or public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? YA fiction, probably in SF if you organize by genre.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: August 8, 2019


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