There are so, SO many amazing reviews for Before We Were Strangers, but I’m floundering on what to think about it. I loved some aspects of the book, but my overall feel for the book is that it was only… okay. I was expecting something sweepingly romantic (second chance romances are my favorite kind of books) and pretty epic, but what I got disappointed me. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad read – like I said, there were things about the book that I enjoyed very much, but there were also plenty that I couldn’t enjoy. I really, really wish I could have loved this book more, since so many people seem to love it, but this missed the mark for me.
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?
I absolutely LOVED the idea of Before We Were Strangers – a chance encounter with a first love you lost touch with for fifteen years, only to meet up again because of a Craigslist ad? YES PLEASE! I thought the premise was so unique and sweet – I expected to fall so hard for this second chance romance, and I did enjoy it in the beginning. It starts off with Matt seeing Grace for the first time in fifteen years and meeting her eyes just as she’s pulling away on the subway. It takes him a while and some courage before he puts up a Craigslist ad for Grace asking her to reach out to him.
I felt it for Grace before I even had a name for it. I might have said the word a million times, but it sounded different now that I meant it. When I thought about what we had, it didn’t matter that it was just friendship. I loved her.
Unfortunately, what brought the book down for me was the big chunk of the book that is set in the past, fifteen years ago. Here, we meet college Matt and Grace – who I greatly disliked. I honestly couldn’t connect with them – their personalities in college were so not what I was expecting, and they clashed with what I thought about them in the present. I felt so disconnected from them and their story, and I just wasn’t invested in their budding romance. College Grace and Matt sometimes came across as irritating, much to my disappointment. The main reason for this was the writing – it was very, very flat. All tell and no show. It’s the kind of writing that’s too simple, with short sentences, and feels slightly choppy. This is the first book I’ve read by Renée Carline so I didn’t know what to expect, but I was disappointed with the writing in Before We Were Strangers. If the writing in this is similar to the writing in her other books, I’m not sure I’d be able to read them. An author’s writing greatly influences the way I perceive a novel, and flat writing means flat characters to me.
Also, the reason why Grace and Matt fell apart for fifteen years was such a disappointment. I wanted a solid reason that would break my heart, but it was only a miscommunication that could have easily been solved that broke them apart.
Time passes, life goes on, places change, people change. And still, I couldn’t get Grace off my mind after seeing her in the subway. Fifteen years is too long to be holding on to a few heart-pounding moments from college.
I do want to point out some things that I actually really liked about this book. After the large two-thirds of the story that is set in the past, we go back to the present, when Matt and Grace reunite. So many things have changed in those fifteen years for them, but the one constant is their love for one another. This last third of the book is definitely the more enjoyable part. I loved the touching way Grace and Matt reconnected, how their love endured so strong and for so long. My heart finally felt SOMETHING for these two characters. If the book had been set mostly in the present, I think I would have enjoyed Before We Were Strangers so much more.
As much as I hoped to fall in love with this, I couldn’t get past the surprisingly mediocre writing and I didn’t connect with the characters. I expected so much more, but I’m probably in the minority for not loving Before We Were Strangers. It was only an okay read for me – it didn’t wow me, most of the book didn’t make me FEEL, and I had too high expectations that weren’t met.
Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.
Also by Renée Carlino
Sweet Thing: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
Nowhere But Here: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
After the Rain: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
Swear on This Life: My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Goodreads