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Bock, Caroline. Before My Eyes. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2014. [320p]. Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-250-04558-4 $17.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-250-03567-7 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 7-10.

Claire is weighed down with the responsibilities of taking care of her little sister and their home after her mother suffers a debilitating stroke. Max chafes under the pressure of appearing to be the perfect son of politically ambitious parents, and he seeks relief from physical and emotional pain in prescription drugs that he buys from Barkley, a boy he works with. Barkley is suffering from the onset of paranoid schizophrenia, shutting out his clueless parents as he spends more and more time gaming on the internet and launching a one-man campaign to save the environment from plastic water bottles. When his efforts to reach Max’s dad, the senator, go unheeded, the voice in his head encourages him to take action, and the summer ends in tragedy. While Barkley and Max are distinctly unlikable in their coarse treatment of others, their intense sadness makes their actions comprehensible in sympathetic ways, particularly when balanced against their responses to Claire, who inspires them to warped forms of kindness. From a narrative standpoint, a near drowning acts as an obvious metaphor for these teens who feel suffocated by their lives; the depressive angst and helplessness felt by the characters are relentless to the point of needing the climactic release of Barkley’s mass shooting, which serves to release Max and Claire from their inward focus and see beyond their present circumstances. Readers who enjoy diving into such deep waters will appreciate the way Bock both pulls them under the waves of depression and mental illness and lifts them out again.



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p. 351
Launched on MUSE
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