Review// Before My Eyes by Caroline Bock

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Before My Eyes by Caroline Bock

In Caroline Bock's Before My Eyes, Claire has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets a guy online who appears to be a kindred spirit. Claire is initially flattered by the attention but when she meets Max, the shy state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated. Working alongside Max at a beachfront food stand is Barkley. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head.
Narrated in turns by Claire, Max, and Barkley, Before My Eyes captures a moment when possibilities should be opening up, but instead everything teeters on the brink of destruction. [from publisher]


I don't usually read books that are told in three perspectives but I'm glad that I read Before My EyesTold in a non-linear fashion, Before My Eyes fleshes out mental illness, violence, and the struggles of being a teenager all at once. It's the kind of book that makes you think and the kind of book where you end up knowing the characters well. It's also the kind of book that I'd want to reread. 

All of the characters have problems and combined with the alternating perspectives, I was initially like "WHAT IS GOING ON HERE" but I got the hang of it. 17-year old Claire and Max both want to be normal. Claire is struggling to deal with her mother's stroke, her emotionally distant father who's either working or at her mother's bedside at the hospital, and her six-year-old sister, who Claire has to take care of for the end of the summer. Max on the other hand is struggling with his minimum wage job, which he took to improve his state senator father's image and his coworkers, who Max struggles to relate to. It's a lot all at once for both of them and yet Bock makes the characters easy to relate to.There's also Barkley, a 21-year old, who works at the same beachfront shop that Max does. He hears voices in his head and has an obsession with Claire. 

In alternating perspectives, the story spirals towards a terrible event on Labor Day where Barkley pulls out a gun and starts shooting. What I loved about this book was that it explored culpability and responsibility, which is a relevant topic right now, especially with the Isla Vista shooting. Who was supposed to intervene? What could've been done? What should've been done? Max blames himself for not noticing that something was severely off with Barkley and that he missed the signs. But from Max's perspective, he knew that Barkley was off, but he didn't know that he was that off. However, is there a distinct and obvious line that delineates the two from the bystander's viewpoint? 

The story is simple but the characters were complex and fleshed out. There's tragedy in all of the characters but there were things that I could connect to in each of the characters. I enjoyed watching Max's and Claire's growth throughout the novel, too. Claire became stronger and Max found happiness as well as true friendship. I'm looking forward to Bock's books in the future. 


  1. This sounds like a really deep and dark read! I'm not sure if I'm emotionally going to be able to handle it...LOL!

    I totally get what you're saying about the 3 perspectives. I too often find myself confused with multiple perspectives, as they often turn out to be sloppy, but I'm glad that isn't the case with this one. Even if you were a little confused in the beginning with the narration, I'm glad it became easier to follow as the story progressed.

    And the characterization sounds wonderful as well! It's great to hear a story like this has such strong characters that are complex and well-develop and that change over the course of the story.

    Definitely going to give this a try when I'm in the mood for an emotional read! Thanks for sharing Alice-Jane, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

  2. Cee <3 <3
    I was uncomfortable for the longest time and after a while, I felt like "Alice-Jane" and "Jessica" were two separate people, which in reality wasn't the case. Being "Alice-Jane" gave me security and comfort. When you wrote your own post about having a pen-name and how you were uncomfortable with people IRL finding out about your own personal space, I totally related.

    At the end of the day, it's who we are inside that matters the most and to me, your name doesn't really matter. Thanks for your kind words!

  3. I appreciate that you took the time with Before My Eyes. Very thoughtful. Many thanks. Caroline

  4. Thank you! The characterization was great and I really enjoyed connecting with the characters as well as reading about their stories.


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