(Belated) ARC Review – Before Everything by Victoria Redel

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Several months ago, I decided I wanted to be more proactive about reading and reviewing ARCs, and while I had a NetGalley membership, I was itching for more. Because I’m ALWAYS itching for more – it’s probably my fatal flaw. In any case, I signed up for First to Read, and this was the first book I was approved for on that platform.

I had not anticipated to DNF the first book I was approved for, but that’s exactly what happened.

before everything

Before Everything is about Anna, but it’s also not about Anna. She is part of this group of friends, this pack of five women who have known each other since high school and who have always been there for each other. And Anna was always kind of the leader, the one who did everything first, and now she’s entering hospice because of a cancer that she’s beaten several times before but keeps coming back. The premise itself makes it known that this book is a slow burn, and I was expecting that.

But I wasn’t expecting the characters to be so damn unlikable. Every single one of them.

 Why I DNFed

Because this is the very first book I was approved for on First to Read, I wanted to forge ahead and finish the book. But I couldn’t. I made it to around 40% before I threw in the towel, which is a lot longer than I normally last before I DNF a book. I made the most valiant effort I could muster, but I still couldn’t hack it.

Here’s why I DNFed Before Everything:

  • The characters were so unlikable. I mentioned this already, but it’s worth stating again – there was nothing that I could relate to in any of these characters. Anna separated from her husband for no good reason, they talked about one of the friend’s realization that she was gay as something she just up and decided one day, they were judgy and annoying and I just… I hated all of them. The book doesn’t set it up where we get to know any of them before introducing their problems, and that doesn’t make a reader want to like them.
  • The format was really weird. The chapters were really long, but the sections within the chapters were short, and they jumped around in time and perspective and I hated it. There were some sections from the dog’s point of view, and there were a lot from Anna’s, and also from everyone else in the house, and some people not in the house, and in the past but the past isn’t told in order, and a lot from the present, and I just COULDN’T FOLLOW IT. I really didn’t like it.
  • I was bored. I knew it would be a slow burn, but I didn’t expect it to be plain old slow. And it was. In the 40% of the book that I read (that’s almost halfway!), the only things that happened were that Anna made it EXTREMELY clear that she wanted to die, and that her friends all whined about it because they didn’t want to lose her. ALMOST THE ENTIRE FIRST HALF OF THE BOOK WAS THAT ONE SENTENCE. I understand that cancer and hospice are kind of like that – I have first hand experience. But I was so bored.

Would I pick this up again?

Probably not. I just wasn’t interested.

Thank you to the publisher and First to Read for providing me with an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way.

Happy reading!



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