Published by Diversion on Jan 14th 2014
Genres: Young Adult
"Don't get me wrong. I loved my sister. I never, not once, wished her dead."
Brady and Sabine Wilson are sisters born eleven months apart, but they couldn't be more different. Popular Sabine, the head cheerleader dating the high school hunk, seems to have all the luck, while her younger, artsy sister "Brady Brooder" is a loner who prefers the sidelines to the limelight.
After Sabine dies in a horrific cheerleading accident, grief unravels Brady and her family. Once recognized for her artistic talent, 17-year-old Brady finds herself questioning the value of everything she once held dear. Her best friend betrays her. Her parents' marriage is crumbling. And the boy everyone blames for the accident seems to be her only ally in the search for answers in the wake of her sister's death. As an unlikely friendship emerges, Brady learns more about Sabine - and love - than she bargained for.
Hi everyone! Today I am super excited to help kick off the blog tour for an amazing début novel called
THE MOMENT BEFORE
by Suzy Vitello
published by Diversion Books on January 2014.
This is such an exciting read, a beautiful contemporary about love, grief, family and friendship. I’m delighted to be able to share my thoughts on this book and also a fabulous guest post by the lovely author herself so scroll down to learn more about this fab book.
THE MOMENT BEFORE crashed through the reading slump hanging over me since 2014 dawned and treated me to a wonderful story that kept me captivated. I breezed through this book in the spare moments I caught in between snuggles with my new niece and after the halfway point I pretty much kept promising myself to read just 10% more until eventually I let go of any pretence of plans to get sleep until I had finished the book and boy it was worth it.
THE MOMENT BEFORE is the story of Brady, a Portland teen whose sister Sabine died tragically a few short months before in a cheer-leading accident. Less than eleven months between the sisters, Brady and Sabine were more like twins with the eldest being the vivacious, vibrant popular of the Wilson sisters and Brady, the artsy, eccentric shy sibling, always content to stay in her sisters shadow. When Sabine dies, all blame is put on Connor Christopher, her stunt partner but as Brady works her way through the mire of grief that weighs on her, she realises that there was more to Sabine and her circle of friends that meets the eye and her tragic death is the beginning of the story not the end.
Books like THE MOMENT BEFORE are the reason I love Young Adult contemporary fiction – gripping, heartfelt, full of emotion and filled with realistic characters that involve you in their story and that you can’t help but root for. I loved Brady, her struggle to comprehend the absence of her sister and the effects on her relationships with her family and her friends made me ache for her. The mystery that surrounds both the death of her sister and the flashbacks to when Sabine was alive kept me hooked on the story.
Vitello’s work is accomplished and she has a beautiful writing style that flows easily and keeps the reader engaged. I loved how she didn’t gloss over the emotion that comes with bereavement, not just grief and guilt at being the ones left behind and the longing to move on but also the moments in between, when the paralysis of “normal” fades and the world seems to finally be on an even keel again. What was equally interesting was the insight into how those on the “outside”, involved yet not affected to the same level as Brady’s family behaved in quite an insidious nature towards the death of Sabine and how appearances were more important than being truthful. Brady’s interactions with her friend Martha was a particular favourite storyline of mine and one that had me experience a wide range of emotions.
THE MOMENT BEFORE is a well crafted, beautifully written début that is compelling, wonderful, memorable and a definite must read.
Setting a Book in a Real Place by Suzy Vitello
When I first arrived in Portland twenty-four years ago, I was fresh from a big loss. My husband had died the year before, very suddenly. I had been pregnant with my second child when he died, only a few years older than Brady, my narrator in THE MOMENT BEFORE.
With two babies and no husband, full of questions and sadness, I spent my first year in Portland pushing a double stroller up and down the magnificent Portland hills. The Cascades framed the backdrop to my year of grief, but the somewhat gritty, realness of the city (that’s since come to light via Portlandia) grounded me. There is something both vast and intimate about Portland. The way it simultaneously offers the long view of life while cradling you in its hand. I really wanted to capture the quality of that ambiguous feeling, and when the idea for writing about someone who’d suffered a recent loss came to me, I tried to sidle up to the landscape and evoke what I’d experienced that first year here.
Setting a work of fiction in a “real” place does present some challenges. For one, you have to decide if and when to use the names of actual businesses and landmarks. I actually made an overlay on a map (the one attached) so I could figure it all out and get a visual lay of the land, with regard to the balance of “real” versus “fake.”
For instance, the high school in my book, Greenmeadow, is a mash-up of three actual high schools in the Portland area, so I fabricated its location in a spot that, in reality, is a neighborhood full of houses. As I wrote into the book, the story’s environment took on a sort of hybrid quality. I think I envisioned an Austrian alpine overlay in my fictional version of Portland’s west hills – particularly in the chapter where Brady drives Sabine’s car into peril on the hill near Connor’s house. I’d get lost in the fake world of it, and then have to pull myself out because I wanted a degree of authenticity of place. (That fake neighborhood still has its clutches in me, so much so that I wrote a little prequel story to the novel to revisit it.)
Portland seems to be having a “cultural moment,” with quirky places like Voodoo Doughnuts and its reputation for hipster bars and bands, so its perhaps a happy accident that it’s also a place I’ve lived for practically my whole adult life.
The final scene of the book is an example of an opportunity afforded by setting the book somewhere real. I don’t want to give too much away, but the specific location is a place I know intimately, and carries a lot of weight for me spiritually and emotionally, and I think that the events in the book stay true to that. It was profoundly liberating and quite scary to write toward a conclusion set in that particular spot.
Had I chosen to set THE MOMENT BEFORE in a wholly invented city it’s quite possible it would have been a different book entirely, informed by character and plot much more than landscape. Right now I’m playing with an idea for a sequel two-and-a-half years later that takes place in an invented location based on a town 75 miles East of Portland. It’s a compromise, I suppose, but I’d like the freedom to place mountains and rivers wherever I want to fit the storyline. In pondering this, I’m thinking the decision might hinge on the size of the setting. It might be easier to choose a real city to set a novel in, rather than a factual small town. More wiggle room for invention. More Austrian alpine neighborhoods. More leaps of imagination.
About the Author
As a founding member of what the Oregonian has dubbed Portland’s “hottest writing group” (members include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, Lidia Yuknavitch, Monica Drake and Cheryl Strayed), Suzy’s name has graced the acknowledgement pages of many a book. Her own award-winning writing has appeared in a bunch of journals and anthologies. She holds an MFA from Antioch Los Angeles, and when she’s not writing novels, does freelance copywriting and editing. The Moment Before is her debut novel. Suzy lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Kirk, and son, Carson. Find out more on suzyvitello.com.
Diversion Books: http://diversionbooks.com/ebooks/moment