Before I Go
When other kids were dating or watching movies or&well, anything, Madison was in the rink practicing. Her mother, a former skater herself, has been her constant companion and has sacrificed just as much of her life as her daughter. Madisons father, in fact, tries hard to be included, but often feels left out though he has to regularly step in as a mediator between the strong-willed mother and daughter.
Just when it seems like all their hard work is finally going to pay off, tragedy strikes. Madisons dizzy spells and weight loss arent from overwork, but instead are the result of a particularly nasty cancer. Both mother and daughter are at first un-accepting of Madisons illness, but it soon consumes their lives as fully as skating ever did.
While much of the storyline is taken up with the family dynamics, the rest revolves around the relationship between Jack and Madison. Jack, for some time, has been deeply in love with Madison. On the surface, they are an odd couple Jack is popular and handsome and could have the pick of any girl at school, but there has never been any other girl for him than Madison. Up until her illness, Madison had been oblivious to his feelings (much as she had been oblivious to the sacrifices her parents had made for her over the years).
Now, as her health weakens, her love and appreciation of Jack (as well as her mother and father) deepens. Their love story is a bittersweet one sure to bring a tear to many an eye. Jack, in fact, was my favorite character in the book. His love is simple and pure and he does what he feels is right, no matter what other people think or how they react (including Madison). He's the kind of guy any girl would fall for.
Fans of Sparks and Lurlene McDaniel will find much to love in Before I Go. Romance fans in general will also; just be sure to keep some tissues handy. Recommended for readers aged 12 and up.
Before I Go
by Riley Weston
Reviewed by Sheryl Root
This was one of the most powerfully written books I have read in a long time. It will definitely be in my top ten for 2006. The characters are beautifully drawn and the descriptions so vivid that I was immediately transported into Madison's world. It is a world filled with competitive ice skating, her mom and coach Annie, and Jackson Wellington III. It is several love stories woven into one.
Maddie meets Jack when she is six and he is seven, facing off over a single yellow balloon. From that point on, they are inseparable friends and soul mates. Madison's days are filled with early mornings and late nights at the rink, which leaves little time for making friends. But she always has Jack.
Madison's relationship with her mom, Annie, is typical of the love/hate relationship experienced between mothers and daughters during the teen years, complicated by the fact that Annie is also her coach. When Maddie becomes exhausted, beyond what even her non-stop training explains, Annie pushes her to continue--as a coach because they are so close to their goal of the Olympics, and as a mom because she doesn't want to face what Maddie's abnormal fatigue might really mean.
Annie and Madison's relationship is written so clearly and brilliantly that, to me, it was the crux of the book. The love between Jack and Maddie is playful, tender, and bittersweet. How each person, each relationship, deals with a Madison's illness is portrayed with realism, humor, and love.
Before I Go does not have a storybook "happy" ending. While I admit I cried quite a bit during the closing chapters of the book, sadness was not the feeling I was left with. Instead, I took away hope, joy, and faith in what is to come.
Armchair Interview says: This is a highly recommended young adult book.
Reprinted here with author's permission.