Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino
Published: August 18, 2015 by Atria Books
Source: Purchased ebook
From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.

To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?

M [goodreads]

I'll just come right out and say it, I really enjoyed this book -- like way more than I thought I would.  The premise definitely intrigued me, but it wasn't until I was lost in the pages that I realized just how much it was really capturing me.  I think fans of both New Adult novels and Adult novels can appreciate this one.  Since the story is told in flashback scenes, we get to see these characters in their college years, but we also follow their story fifteen years later into adulthood.  It's a nice balance between the age ranges, offering a solid story that fills in all the holes, in just the right timing.

Have you ever wondered what if?  What if you chose one path, over another, a little voice in the back of your mind whispering what could have happened if you'd followed a different journey?  For Grace and Matt, they are living out their biggest what if's in life.  The story begins just as Matt sees Grace on the subway, the girl who got away, and it conjures up all the feelings he once had for her causing him to question where he took that wrong turn.  In a reach of faith, he posts a missed connections ad, hoping Grace will see it and the possibility of them reconnecting is closer than he realizes.

But before that ad can be answered, we learn the nature of their relationship and see where it all began.  I really enjoyed getting to know college age Grace and Matt.  They were both so carefree and wondrous, two lost souls searching for the unknown.  Their energy was lively, but it was their passion that ultimately pulled them together.  This might be one of my favorite first love stories.  I really gravitated toward their relationship and how it all began.  There was honesty, yearning, heartache, and so many opportunities to fall -- yet they kept soaring.

I knew with all this passion and love and adventure, there would be an edge, just waiting to fall from.  And my did they both fall HARD.  I won't give away the details of their downward spiral because it also adds to the beauty of their relationship, something worth witnessing as you read their story.  I will say that it deserves to be acknowledged, every bit of its ugliness, because it felt real and pure and necessary.

So what if their paths had never detoured, what if they remained on the same road together, riding off into the sunset?  Well, I do know that would have made for one very boring story.  Like all things in life, sometimes we have to carve out our own paths (no matter how rocky they may be), and fight our way through them in order to see that sunset again.  I whole-heartedly loved this novel and highly recommend it!


  1. Aw this sounds really good. I like stories where readers are slowly introduced to the backstories/relationship of the characters. I just watched The Last 5 Years on Netflix and it was kind of like that. Not to mention the fact that reconnecting through craiglist is kind of romantic in a really weird way. :P

  2. This was one of my top faves of last year. I loved their friendship, how it evolved, and how it all wrapped up in the end. So much love for this book!! :)

  3. Great review! I have had this book on my list for a while, but my library doesn't have it. I need to just break down and buy it. It sounds so good! I love books with flashbacks, and I have definitely wondered what if. :)


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