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Before My Eyes

Before My Eyes

3.5 4
by Caroline Bock

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—The summer before his senior year, Max, 17, is disillusioned with his New York state senator father and ambitious mother. He has grown tired of and dissatisfied with his planned-out life and doesn't quite know what his next step should be. He works at the Snack Shack at a Long Island beach, where he is surrounded by a motley crew, including his strange coworker Barkley. Max just wants the summer to be over. Seventeen-year-old Claire has her own set of problems and has had to grow up quickly. Her mother had a stroke, leaving Claire to keep the house, cook, watch over her younger sister, and share money woes with her father. All she wants is to be understood. This summer, Barkley, 21, has reached his limit and gives in to his darker nature and the voices he hears in his head. Over a Labor Day weekend, Claire's, Max's, and Barkley's lives come together. The three are forever changed when Barkley brings a gun to a political event. The first-person narrators speak with unique voices, and their tales entwine to create a compelling story. Bock has crafted a suspenseful and intense novel that is sure to keep readers turning the pages.—Elizabeth Jakubowski, formerly at Watervliet Public Library, NY
Publishers Weekly
Bock returns to the Long Island setting of her critically acclaimed first book for teens, LIE, as the lives of three young people intersect over a weekend. Claire’s mother has had a stroke and is in rehab, upending her family. Barkley, 21, has serious psychological problems, has bought a gun, and is sending threats to a state senator. Max’s father is that senator, and Max is having a miserable summer between his father’s reelection campaign and his own nascent addiction to painkillers. Bock’s story unfolds as an hour-by-hour account of the Labor Day weekend before Claire and Max’s senior year, told in three alternating points of view. Bock’s prose is fluid and resonant, and her characters fully realistic, although the clipped narration they share makes their voices sound overly similar. A sense of dread and the threat of violence hang over this gripping novel (the book opens with Barkley pulling out a gun at a campaign event for Max’s father), as do the failings of parents, friends, and society. Ages 14–up. Agent: Rachel Sussman, Chalberg & Sussman. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

“[a] gripping novel.” —Publishers Weekly

“[an] unflinching thriller.” —Bookpage

VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Kate Neff
Three young adults from very different backgrounds—Claire, Max, and Barkley—all get to tell their side of the story in this novel about the events that took place over one long, hot Labor Day weekend. Claire is forced to do a lot of growing up during her summer off after her mother has a stroke and Claire is forced into the role of mother and caretaker for her father and little sister. Max, who has always been a “good kid,” has become addicted to his father’s pain pills, but has to be the perfect son while his father runs for senate. Barkley is going down a dark path filled with obsession, voices in his head, and violence. All three of their lives intersect at the beach on Labor Day weekend, and they impact each other in ways they would never expect. The story moves quickly through the use of alternating narrators, and the tension builds as Barkley’s mental state worsens. The book will appeal to most readers, and could be especially helpful to teens who find themselves in a dark spot in their lives. It may make some readers think twice about the people they know, and the strangers they meet, forcing them to take more time to get to know people for who they really are—not just the façade they wear for the rest of the world. Reviewer: Kate Neff; Ages 15 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
The final moments before a disturbed young man sprays bullets into a crowd at a political event form the opening of this grim but intelligent novel. The worlds of three teens overlap at the end of a summer that has brought unwelcome changes into their respective lives. Max, the privileged but miserable son of a state senator, meets and can't get out of his mind a thoughtful, grieving young woman named Claire, whose beloved mom is hospitalized following a stroke. At the same time, Max's co-worker Barkley, who writes crazed political missives to Max's father, has begun to hear a voice directing his actions and has also spotted and become obsessed with Claire. Alternating narratives in the first person by each of the three at times seem to go on a bit too long, given that it's clear from the beginning what the outcome will be. Claire is the most likable, and readers will appreciate her lack of cookie-cutter edges, both in her physical description and in her emotional ups and downs as she takes care of her younger sister largely on her own. Max is less sympathetic, at times frustratingly self-absorbed, but is also clearly struggling. And Barkley, adrift in an increasingly violent storm of mental illness, is deeply troubling. Gripping, disturbing and nuanced. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
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File size:
586 KB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


Monday, Labor Day, 9:58 A.M.
Mark the date. Labor Day. Monday. Nine fifty-eight in the morning. Today I am a lens, a pen, a gun.
Less than a half hour ago, my mother attempted to block my exit. Said I couldn’t have the car keys. She had made a doctor’s appointment for tomorrow for me and used that as an excuse for why I must stay in my bedroom. I am twenty-one years old and will not listen to her any longer.
I cannot get many places without a car on Long Island, but I could get here.
At the Lakeshore Community Park, one mile from my house, my fingers are slick inside my sweatshirt. Flowers crumple along the sidewalk leading into the park. The grass runs brown and rough under my sneakers. Water restriction signs are posted on trees.
No lake exists in Lakeshore. It never did.
A crowd forms outside a white tent. The flaps of the tent are secured, the space enclosed. Beyond the tent are playgrounds in bright, primary colors: Red. Yellow. Blue. Bleary in the heat are empty tennis and basketball courts. At the far end are baseball and soccer fields, equipped with sprinklers, lights, and electronic scoreboards. It has been a hot, dry, long summer. I am sure I am not the only one pleased this season is coming to an end.
Yet I move up to the tent with a light step. I slept last night for the first time since April—from midnight on, a dead, dreamless sleep.
My eyes dart left and right. I must focus. Straight ahead. Concentrate—and act. I must wait no longer for an answer from the state senator to my letter, my e-mails, and my texts.
Tilting my head, I listen and am met with a ferocious silence. The smell of ozone burns in the air. Rain must be on the way.
I cannot do this alone. I listen, harder. Hear: the whir of insects. My fingers twitch. My skin crawls. I need a cigarette. A cigarette. Coffee. Claire.
I inch behind an old couple, short, withered, gnome-like. They each hold the hand of a girl, five or six years old, with shimmering blond hair, dressed in pink, a tank top with beads and sparkles. This pink is a sign. She is more than a girl. She is a living warning that I am being watched.
Nevertheless, without the voice, I am lost.
In front of me, the old man trips over a tree root. Before he stumbles headlong into the tent, my left hand flies out and catches him. I help him upright. I am nodding at him, the grandma, and the girl. I must breathe. Fix my sunglasses. Push up the sleeves of my sweatshirt. Jam both hands back into the pockets.
I latch onto the voice. The voice is with me, faint but nevertheless here. My heart races.
Your deeds will be blameless and wise.
I grin until the edges of my face hurt. The taste of metal singes the back of my throat. I strain to hear. Dig my nails into my palms, cut through the skin, lock the grin in place. I am here to act. To make State Senator Glenn Cooper understand the crucial need for immediate action.
Only you can do this. Be neither of proud heart nor shameful lies.
Out of the corner of my eye: Long legs edge the parking lot. Waist-long brown hair is in focus. She is more woman than girl. She looks lovely. I spin that word around in my head: lovely. But she is not Claire.
Sweat beads along the back of my head, down my neck.
“You must be baking in that sweatshirt,” says the grandmother. “Going to be hot, hot, hot again today.”
I shudder.
“I’m going to the beach after this,” says the girl. She tugs up her shirt, revealing a bathing suit, pink with sparkles as well. “I’m going to the beach. To the beach.” A singsong voice. “I can see myself in your sunglasses.” The grandparents beam, nudge her forward.
I know it is a sign. I must be here. The future is here. Violence is both a noun and a philosophical construct. I embody the noun—and the construct—and if I am violence, and I am good (which I must be), then violence must be good or in the purpose of the greater good since my only purpose is to do good. I am wrapped in goodness, an invincible light. My cape. My shield. No one can hurt me. This is my day.
ESTABLISHING SHOT: Lakeshore Community Park. Present day. Morning.
The voice sifts through the white noise and directs my vision. I am the lens. The pen.
MEDIUM SHOT: A flyer taped to the front of a white tent reads “Annual Labor Day Community Fair, ten to two o’clock. Meet State Senator Glenn Cooper.”
PAN: Across the parking lot, the volunteer fire department arrives with a display of lights and horns. Minivans and SUVs filter in through the haze and circle like fish in a pond. On the grass, next to the tent, energetic elderly ladies scoot around tables for the League of Women Voters and for the Lakeshore Public Library. The Boy Scouts of North Lakeshore and South Lakeshore roughhouse behind opposing tables. A police car rumbles in and stops alongside the boys. The police officer, freckle-faced, slumping sleepy-eyed at the wheel, finishes his coffee and salutes the scouts.
CLOSE-UP: On the seat next to the officer a gift with a big bow around it. Pink.
LONG SHOT: Survey the crowd like a kingpin, like the top dog. Beam with confidence in the lazy morning light. Own the present and the future—and CUT.
I blink and squint. Before me, a neon-pink suit strides out of the white tent unexpectedly. “Hi, I’m Debbi Cooper. Hi! I’m Debbi Cooper. Hi! I’m Debbi.” She charges at the crowd, shaking hands, saying that her husband, the state senator, and her son are making a few last-minute preparations. “It only should be a minute or so until we are all inside.” She is so glad that we have all come out on this Labor Day. She calls a few people by name, says her own again. Offers hugs. Mentions the weather. The lack of rain. The wish for rain. “But aren’t we all so, so glad that it isn’t raining right now?”
I thrust my hands even deeper into my pockets. I can smell my odor, life-affirming. No water has touched me in weeks, since I was suspended from school in April. Water burns.
Debbi Cooper rushes on to the old couple and the girl, embracing all three. Pink flashes. After a few seconds or more—time has slowed, the sun is beating down on my shaved head—she is asking us all to stand on a special line, if we would like a photograph with the state senator. Only in New York do you stand “on line.” I do not approve. Quick enough, she click-clacks back into the white of the tent.
The top of the tent drifts with a vagrant wind. Next to me, a plastic bottle of water is raised to eager lips. I am thirsty, too. Nevertheless, I will not violate myself with plastic.
Bodies shuffle forward. These people do not understand the need for order. The smell of ozone intensifies. I itch. I need a cigarette. A cigarette. Coffee. Claire. I am lost. I want to go back to my bedroom.
Careful. Walk in a perfect way. Smile. Good. All is good.
Finally, the voice is clear and bright and willful. My right hand circles the Glock in my pocket. I stand straighter. Grin harder.

Copyright © 2014 by Caroline Bock

Meet the Author

CAROLINE BOCK is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novel LIE. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.

CAROLINE BOCK is the author of the critically-acclaimed young adult novel LIE.  She  currently lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.

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Before My Eyes 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a riveting book. I could not put it down. So vivid and realistic -- a real reflection of the times we live in with gun violence, mental illness and other real issues. After I read it, my 15-year-old also read it and we had a lot to talk about after.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BlkosinerBookBlog More than 1 year ago
    I wanted to read Before My Eyes because I loved the synopsis. It has a sick mom, a girl who is taking care of her sister, a mental illness and drug addiction. All tough issues that even singularly would grab my attention but I had great hopes that together they would be even more powerful.      I know that Barkley is schizophrenia but the style of writing and they way that his head worked really threw me when I first started. I guess that makes it even more authentic since his mind wouldn't work anywhere similar to mine, but the intro we get def made me wonder what the tie between the three are and what would come from the events.      We go back to "before" so that we can discover what happened. I think that works okay because my interest is def peaked for what got Max going and if there's hope for him as well as what happens.       Claire was my favorite probably because it was easiest to relate to her, not only because she is a girl, but because of the responsibility on her shoulders. I see a lot of her struggles in myself both now and when I was her age even though circumstances are different. She had a struggle with how her mom's illness effected the family and if there was anything she could have done to change what happened. She loves her sister, but it is a lot of stuff to deal with when she just wanted to have fun.       Max's story unfolded a little more slowly. We know his father is a politician and kinda strict with him as far as expectations. I got to like him though. He had a lot of expectation, and he is beginning to see that life isn't all black and white, that some of the people he thought was his friends disappointed him, and found friends in the most unlikely places.       It was neat how their stories all wove together, more so than it first appeared. Innocent and then bigger ties to one another through living in the same town their road ran more and more parallel.       The ending was shocking and emotional, but I think that with all of the build up I could expect nothing less from where the book was leading. It felt realistic to me, and though it gave a dark feel to the book, those themes are there all along and even in the synopsis.  Bottom Line: Dark journey into three different protagonists--whose lives are connected even if they didn't know it at first. 
majibookshelf More than 1 year ago
I am a huge fan of realistic fiction, and Before My Eyes definitely seemed like a book that I would definitely enjoy. This book is told from three different point of views. We have Claire, Max, and Barkley. Reading the synopsis, we don't get to understand much about what the story would  be about, and unfortunately, I STILL don't get it. When I started this book, it was weird. The writing was different, it took time to get used to it, but I liked it. I even told my sister "It's weird, but good weird, will probably get better." For me, it didn't. I still don't know why I didn't DNF this book, but for some reason I though there would be an explanation at the end of the book. THERE WAS NOTHING. I was so confused. I don't think I liked any of the characters. They were weird, and I just didn't feel like I was able to connect to any of them. My major problem with this book is that it just lacked a plot. The pace of the book was incomprehensible. I just felt like the book was so jumbled up, and nothing ever made sense to me. The book was full of dialogues of stuff that I felt were useless. I tried looking at the bigger picture, I really tried. I just couldn't understand what it was about, and I just couldn't enjoy it. My opinion of this book will remain my opinion. I just wished I didn't waste my time reading it till the end, because all I read could have been summarized in about two chapters. Will I recommend this book to a friend? No. Does that mean you shouldn't pick it up? Of course not! If you end up picking it up, and you end up understanding the "message" behind this book, don't hesitate to tell me.