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Full disclosure: I received a free copy of The Moment Before from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Brady, the younger Wilson sister by a whole eleven months, is known for her artsy ways. Sabine, her older sister, is perfect. She’s a cheerleader. She’s part of a power couple. Everyone loves her. And then she dies in a freak cheering accident. Everyone blames Connor, Sabine’s stunt partner, for failing to catch her. He did fail a drug test that day, after all. But Brady doesn’t quite buy it. She wants to get to the bottom of this whole death thing so she can move on with her life.

Let’s just get one thing straight. From the very first mention of Sabine, I didn’t trust her. Nobody is that perfect. It’s hard to sympathize with a family, no, an entire community, losing its star when you don’t believe that star was who she pretended to be. I’m not sure whether I was supposed to like or dislike Sabine. I’m not actually sure how I was supposed to feel about most of the characters.

So, the good. Suzy Vitello handles the grief of the family very well. Dad starts drinking too much and pushes his family away. Mom gets all secretive. Is she having an affair? Brady, formerly a good student (or that’s what I got out of it, at least), begins neglecting her studies. Everything falls apart.

The indifferent. I both liked and disliked Brady’s relationship with Connor. Why did it have to happen so quickly? One minute Brady hated him with a fiery passion, and the next she was falling all over him. They made a cute (though weird) couple, but was the relationship really necessary? Did it add anything to the story? Aside from injecting some romance when the plot slowed down, not really.

And the bad. For a book of a mere 200-ish pages, there is an awful lot going on. Every character has at least two or three side plots in addition to the main dead Sabine thing. I couldn’t bring myself to care about whether Martha, the girls’ best friend, won her pageant thing. The whole art award nonsense was never really resolved. Sabine’s secret drama/trauma doesn’t really go anywhere. The teachers ask the right questions but never follow up. And then there were the weird references to St. Agatha and moths. While The Moment Before started out with a good premise, I feel like the author tried to tackle too many ideas.

In the end, I really can’t give it more than two stars. Maybe, had the plot been more focused and the characters been more relatable, I could give it three or four. The premise was good, as I said. There was just so much going on that no single plot, including the main one, got the attention it deserved.

Final rating: ★★☆

[also posted here]

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