Before You Go

Before You Go

by James Preller


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250034212
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 08/27/2013
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

James Preller is the author of several picture books and novels, including A Pirate's Guide to First Grade, Six Innings, and Bystander. Before You Go is his first work for young adults. He lives in Delmar, New York.

Read an Excerpt




Jude squeezed his eyes shut, blinking away the sun’s glare, and waited for the eight-fifteen-in-the-freaking-morning bus. On a Saturday, no less. The stop was located beneath the elevated Long Island Rail Road, with rails that hummed overhead and stretched across the length of the island, connecting the farthest points east all the way to Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan. For as long as he could remember, New York City had beckoned to Jude, offering an exotic world of freedom and possibility. The city stood as a skyscrapery refutation of his suburban life, escape only a train ticket and forty-five minutes away.

He sat cross-legged on the curb, leaned back on his hands, and scanned the road for coming traffic. Most people around here drove like psychopaths, and Jude wasn’t eager to have his legs run over. It might ruin his weekend, the bleeding stumps, all that dragging around. Better, he thought, not to get run over in the first place, so he cast a wary eye down the road. Today was the first day of the rest of his life, and Jude would spend it at Jones Beach—starting a new summer job in the food-service industry. There were still a couple of weeks of school left and the grind of finals, but they needed workers on weekends, and Jude wasn’t in a position to make anybody wait. Jobs weren’t easy to find, and his skills, Jude had discovered, were not highly in demand, as he had none.

Barely awake, he had dressed in the required uniform of black pants and orange T-shirt. Because naturally you wear black pants to the sun-baked beach. Jude Fox was on his way to becoming a minimum-wage flunky, a burger-grilling, soda-spilling concession-stand worker.

The morning sun shone not high above the horizon, garish and bright, so Jude stepped back into the station’s cool cement shadows. It was going to be a hot one, the first scorcher of summer—not a cloud in sight, just blue June skies. In truth, Jude didn’t hate the idea of working. He’d heard that beach jobs could be okay, even fun. But Jude was a realist; he knew it would basically blow. Or suck. Strange how those two words, blow and suck, both conveyed the same and yet totally different meanings. It blew, it sucked: same thing. Weird. He’d heard people complain about their jobs all his life. Why should his job be any different? So he couldn’t help but wonder if getting a job had been a colossal mistake. Sometimes it felt to Jude that he was just like those trains overhead, traveling between two steel rails, the course of his life mapped out long ago. No steering wheel, no brakes. Jude followed the path carved out for him, no different from anybody else.

These are the thoughts you have when you wake up too early on a Saturday morning.

Jude had taken this particular bus many times before, usually with a murder of boys dressed in shorts or baggy bathing suits, with beach towels rolled in tubular fashion or backpacks slung over their shoulders. They went to hang in the sand, admire the girls, swim if the jellyfish weren’t too bad, wander the boardwalk, and later, catch a bus home, sunburned and happy.

A few glassy-eyed stragglers gathered at the stop, mostly young beach workers in Halloween colors. It was too early for the leather-skinned beach crowd. Jude knew a few of the guys at the stop, not interested in talking, so did the chin-lift thing. They were all in the same boat as Jude—or, very soon, the same bus; the learner’s permit crowd, old enough to work an entry-level job, not old enough to drive there.

Jude had considered running to the beach, about seven miles door to door, but that would’ve required setting his alarm even earlier, and then he’d need a place to shower once he got there. His body could absorb a run like that no problem, but it could make for a long day if work turned out to be tough. Maybe another time, after he scoped out the job situation. His dad was already up and out, gone for the day. Jude had half hoped his mother would offer to give him a lift, step up this one time, but he knew not to count on miracles. As a matter of personal policy, Jude kept his expectations low to avoid disappointment. That was the strategy, anyway.

A good-looking girl whom Jude knew a little bit showed up, the beautiful Dani Remson with long legs that went all the way up to her shoulders. She’d had a brief thing with his friend Corey about six months back. Something about Dani had always made Jude uneasy, maybe because she was a predatory goddess with brown eyes that lasered right into him. So, head down, Jude busied himself with the apps on his cell, and that worked sufficiently well. After a teasing, sing-songy, “Mooorning, Jude,” Dani brushed past him to join another girl who stood clutching a can of Diet Pepsi.

The bus came and everybody shuffled onboard, feet dragging. Jude grabbed a seat toward the back, stuffed in earbuds, found the Cure on his iPod, gazed out the window for the ride south on Wantagh Parkway. Jude had been obsessing over the Cure lately, especially the best tunes off Disintegration. As a band, they peaked in the early 90s, but Jude liked them anyway. Music was music; it didn’t matter if a song was made fifty years ago in Liverpool, England, or behind some guy’s woodshed five minutes ago. The good tunes stuck and the rest dropped away. Some days Jude could listen to “Pictures of You” on an endless repeat cycle, losing himself in the interplay of guitar, synthesizer, and bass. That the Cure’s songs were often dark, brooding, and melancholy only made it all the better. Jude didn’t really go for the Cure’s poppier, radio-ready numbers. He had played guitar for eight years now, practicing four, five times a week. Guitar was his retreat. It was a door closing, shutting the world out, and a window opening, connecting him to something other, a rift in space through which he escaped for hours at a time. Jude felt, not without reason, that music had saved his life. But, hey, music made everything better—even bus rides to a particular version of sucks called My First Day on the Job.

The bus dropped the passengers off near the huge traffic circle at Central Mall, Field Four. This was the busiest, most crowded, commercial area of Jones Beach, loosely divided into fields. The famous Jones Beach watertower signaled a visitor’s entrance to the beach. The iconic tower thrust skyward at more than 225 feet. It dominated the flat horizon like an extended middle finger. Young children called it the pencil, usually in a happy squeal, for it announced their arrival. Here you go, happy beachgoers, now pay your parking fee and grab a patch of sand.

Jude turned his back to the tower and walked toward the boardwalk like everybody else in sight—it was either that or step into traffic—then turned right to wind his way to operation headquarters where he’d been told to check in. The building wasn’t much, a trailer on steroids obscured by a scraggle of bushes, tucked behind the men’s bathroom. Jude noted that it offered showers and lockers, definitely useful if he ever wanted to run to work some morning.

He hesitated in the open doorway, looking in at a thin, middle-aged man dressed in a white short-sleeved shirt and dark tie seated behind a gray metal desk. The man, obviously a boss-type individual, had sinewy arms covered in thick curly hair, like some kind of tree-climbing forest creature. His jaw muscles worked on a stick of gum. A nameplate on the desk read KEATING. No dummy, Jude took that for the guy’s name. Keating spoke into his phone in fits and spurts, listening impatiently before barking out directives such as, for example, “We’ve got to get those freezers fixed, or we’ll have fifteen goddamned hundred pounds of melted chopped beef on our hands!” If he noticed Jude’s presence, Keating didn’t bother to glance up. Even after snapping shut the phone, Keating continued to ignore Jude, concentrating instead on working his gum while tapping a pencil against the side of his head.

Tap, tap, tap. Anybody home?

Jude recognized Keating’s performance for what it was, a random, unnecessary, and totally unimpressive display of power. So Jude said, “Yeah, hi, excuse me, I was—”

Keating raised a hand for silence. “Grab some bench, son. The car’ll be back in a few minutes. Where you going?”

“Going?” Jude asked. “I just got here.”

Keating raised his chin to give Jude a long look. The career food-service manager was lean and square-jawed, a wiry man, a runner no doubt, and he chomped on gum as if it had hurt his feelings. One of those marathoner guys Jude saw everywhere filling the roadways in his neighborhood, galloping down the street as if they were chasing immortality. His own father was one of them.

“This your first day?” Keating asked.

“Yeah, yes,” Jude said, pulling some rumpled papers from his back pocket. “They told me to—”

“And you are?…”

That stumped Jude for a second. He wavered, befuddled. Jude’s mind didn’t at first recognize it as a question, so he stood like a lowland gorilla, waiting for Keating to finish the sentence, tell Jude what he was, exactly, before finally answering, “Fox, Jude Fox.”

“You sure about that, son? You need more time to think about it?” Keating cracked. He reached for Jude’s papers as if they’d been soaked in poison. Unsmiling, he poured coffee down his throat and unsmiled some more.

Things were going just swell.

Jude shifted on his feet, glancing around at the grim, cluttered office. It truly was nothing more than a transformed trailer. Jude hated this whole scene already with a passion he usually reserved for chemistry teachers, party clowns, and the Grammys. Worst of all, Jude was pretty sure he wasn’t getting paid yet. So all this pleasant chitchat came absolutely free.

Keating’s phone chimed the opening riff to some Billy Joel tune—“We Didn’t Start the Fire”—and the man paused before answering. He jerked a thumb, gesturing outside. “Like I said. Find some pine, sit on it, and we’ll get to you.” Keating didn’t need to call Jude a dumb-ass; it was implicit.

Jude took a couple of steps back, more than happy to get away from the runty marathoner and his Napoleon complex. Outside, there wasn’t a chair in sight; confused, Jude looked back at Keating.

“Around the corner,” Keating said. Then he grumbled into the phone, “It’s a parade of lost lambs around here, yeah, yeah,”—he laughed like a toothy hyena at some joke—“everybody’s looking for new talent. Right now all’s I got is a couple of guys with that deer in the headlights look. I’ll send you what I got.”


Copyright © 2012 by James Preller

Table of Contents


Title Page,
The Accident,
Part One: Before,
Part Two: After,
Author's Note,

Reading Group Guide

1. The author begins the story with a pivotal moment in the characters' lives. Why do you think he chose to place this scene at the start of the novel?

2. Out of all the people working at the Jones Beach concession stands, why do you think Jude is drawn to Becka when he first meets her?

3. Corey is funny and extroverted; Jude is more serious. What do you think makes Corey and Jude such good friends?
4. Jude is a runner; his dad is a runner. Why do you think the author chose this? What does each character get from running?
5. Something terrible has happened to Jude in his past, and something terrible happens to him again. What do you believe Jude's future holds? Will he be okay?

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Before You Go 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
chapterxchapter More than 1 year ago
The first thing that caught my eye when it came to the novel Before You Go by author James Preller was the title. It held mystery and immediately had me wondering exactly what the novel held. So, before even reading the novel, I quickly looked on Goodreads to see what the novel was about and when I saw what Before You Go was about I was already hooked. The story sounded like it would be quick-paced, romantic and of course tragic. It was of course, everything I imagined it to be and more. The novel began with a prologue of sorts that caught my attention from the first sentence and once it held my attention it never once let go. The start of the novel began with a car accident consisting of four victims with only three survivors out of the four. It forces readers to wonder exactly what just happened and before we can learn too much about the novel, it shoves us into the main character Jude’s life. From what we learn early on, Jude’s younger sister drowned when he was nine and ever since his family had never been the same. With a mother who is dissociating from the world around him and a Dad who I found, acted like nothing was wrong, we see that Jude’s life is far from perfect. Taking up a job at a concession stand near the beach, readers see Jude begin his new job and quickly get immersed in the reality of it. His boss was a total jerk. His employees were all awesome-sauce and one of the cashier’s eventually catches his eye and a romance grows. Personally, I liked the romance between Becka and Jude because it was a relationship unlike most in YA. You have this attractive sounding guy main character who has a tragic past and is constantly brooding, and then you have this ray of sunshine for a love interest who Jude just can’t resist. Not to mention that his past does get in the way slightly with his relationship with Becka, causing twists and turns that were a total Epic win. The tone of the novel is set from the start, giving it a very dark feel that most YA novels attempt to achieve but never really do. Luckily, Before You Go does achieve that tone considering the way the novel both began with tragedy and at the same time eventually ends with tragedy. This is definitely a novel that I think has no comparison and stands alone in the YA universe. While it’s definitely worth a read, I would recommend this novel to fans of YA contemporary and romance with a dark twist. This novel is double rainbow all the way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Generally I don't read realistic YA fiction written by male authors (I'm not sexist) it just seems as though it is a predominately female written genre. This book was told in two parts. There was the Before and then there was the After Part and the novel itself was written in the third person which isn't my favourite way to read a book because I don't feel the usual connection to the characters. We have our main protagonist Jude. He's you're average teenager. Awkward in the eyes of his crush but acting like the man whilst he's around his little crew of friends. I wasn't overly fond of Jude because I just found him to be a little over dramatic especially when it came to the girl he liked. Anyway, the novel follows Jude as he experiences a lot of firsts. He gets his first summer job, gets his first girl friend, has his first kiss and loses yet another person he cares about. This is the second tragic death that Jude has experienced. The first was the death of his little sister seven years before. I found Jude to be quite the melancholy character. I do not know if it was the author's intention to make him this way or if that is just how I see him. All I know is that to me he could be right out pompous and depressing so that made the reading of the novel less enjoyable. In fact I had a hard time liking any of the characters. However, despite my dislike or plain old "meh" attitude about Jude and his not so merry cast of characters I did find that the actual plot of the novel was well thought out. There was something about it that made me want to keep reading it. Perhaps it's because it wasn't until near the end of the novel that the "After" section started thus leaving the reader with 130+ pages of wondering when the "Big Thing" would happen and start having the book start come together. Once the "After" section happened I really thought the book picked up the pace and I believe it was that section that made the book for me. If you read it you might think that that's a little weird that it takes the death of one of the characters to make the book seem worth it to me. I was left wanting more from the characters and the writing emotionally but this novel fell short of my expectations. It was as though that part of the book got a whole new lease on life though it was still too little too late for me to give this YA novel more than a moderate rating. The book was entertaining and it kept me interested on the afternoon that I read it long enough to finish it but it was overall quite forgettable. I can see the appeal for a book like this though and I think that people who enjoy YA novels especially teens will enjoy this book. This was just a case of it not being the novel for me. I will however be giving the authors other books a try to see if they are more to my liking. * I received a free copy of this book from the published via NetGalley in exchange for my free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own and I was not compensated in any way.
BooksWithBite More than 1 year ago
This is a great story about letting the past go and learning to move on with your life. When something tragic happens, we are changed inside and out. This story tells a tale of learning to become whole again. What I enjoyed most about this story are the characters. The growth and change in them is slowly built yet very appreciated by the reader. The struggle of Jude and what he faces leaves me heart broken. To carry such a weight on his shoulders is a lot for a kid. Jude did a great job in facing his past and wanting to make a change in his life. The plot of the book flowed nicely. While Jude is facing his past regrets, he is also falling in love. I like that the plot did not rush through the love but rather it grew with the characters. Both characters in love gave the same they need as well the time to learn. The plot also had many plot twist that kept me reading till the ned. There's no questions that I loved this love interest. Beautifully formed, the love that is there is the redemption. It eases the pain that held on to Jude for so long. To see him find love, to confess and face his haunting past, the love helps me through it. Before You Go is a life changing tale of forgiveness. Jude is an amazing well-written characters who growth is tremendous. Facing a dark past with a partner right next to you is what love is all about. Love fixes all things.
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked it okay, but it just felt as if something was missing and I can't quite put a finger on it. The writing is okay, and the characters relatable (though fairly cookie-cutter), I just didn't fully connect with the story. Jude's life is pretty uneventful. He and his parents have maneuvered in a fog for the last seven years -- since his little sister drowned when Jude was supposed to be watching her. The summer before his senior year, Jude gets a job working at a burger joint on the beach. It's there that he meets Becca and falls head over heels for her. As the summer drones on, Jude makes more friends and spends more time with Becca. It seems that life is finally looking up for him, until another accident happens that sends Jude into another tail-spin. As I said earlier, I didn't find myself emotionally invested in the story. On one hand it made sense, since Jude himself is fairly emotionally unattached in the beginning, but I think I expected to grow closer to him, which I never did. When the second accident takes place, and Jude detaches himself again, I didn't really feel a loss. I understood why he felt the way he did, I just didn't feel it as deeply as I would have liked. All of the characters are fairly believable, though not very three-dimensional. The story itself is filled with a lot of emotional potential, it just left me feeling a little indifferent. All in all, the book has a descent story and familiar characters, but it just didn't deliver for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago