(#96) Book Review: The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder

Amber takes one day to have for herself.  Her life seems to be spinning out of her control, so she skips school and takes a limo to the beach with only her iPod for company.  At the beach she meets Cade, who seems as lost as she is.  The two of them have a perfect day with no regrets.  What is Cade’s secret?  Will Amber be able to get him to open up?

Letters from the past are interspersed with Schroeder’s trademark free verse in this novel about an important day in the lives of two teens.  The result is uneven at best: sometimes the poetry just tells the story, and sometimes the poetry is almost too precious to stand.  The poetry is only part of the problem, though, because the intensity of Amber and Cade’s relationship feels too rushed and strains the credibility of the entire story.

There are things that are good here, though.  Schroeder’s word play is often surprising and satisfying, especially when she allows the words to dance around on the page.  Amber’s history is very unclear at first, and while some readers might be frustrated by what she’s holding back, it will be compelling for others.  This is a quick read for those who don’t want to linger on the poems (which often feel rushed).  Fans of verse novels are more suited for this book than those unfamiliar with the literary technique.

But the problems outweigh the novel’s good aspects.  Neither Cade nor Amber are particularly compelling or interesting characters.  Because the novel is told in verse, the reader lacks much of the critical insight into the characters necessary to understand and sympathize with their problems.  While both teens are definitely facing hardships, these problems become almost secondary to their instant love connection.  The melodrama of the story (rest assured, there is plenty of it to be had) is only heightened further by the quick, unrealistic romance.

This one won’t work for all readers, but my guess is that fans of Schroeder’s other work will enjoy this one, too.  At the end of the day, nothing about this novel is very memorable.  Readers looking to get into verse novels should start somewhere else.

The Day Before by Lisa Schroeder. Simon Pulse: 2011.  Electronic galley accepted for review via Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab.

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