Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Before We Go Extinct

Publish May 5, 2016

In Karen Rivers’ latest novel, Before We Go Extinct, JC’s best friend may have died, but it is JC who stopped living. JC has not spoken since the day he watched his best friend Marvin, “The King,” dive backwards out the forty-second floor window of an unfinished skyscraper. While Marvin’s death is publicized as a suicide, JC remains convinced it was a tragic accident. Overwhelmed with grief and convinced of his own culpability, JC hides in his bedroom, watching and re-watching a documentary about shark extinction, sending text messages to his dead friend’s phone, and stonewalling his only living friend, Daff. At her wits’ end, JC’s mother decides he should spend the summer with his estranged father on an island off the coast of Vancouver. JC does not especially like his father, and is horrified by the idea of two months in the wild, with no convenience stores, no television, and a spotty wi-fi connection. But a neighbouring widow and her children have befriended JC’s father, and JC is soon drawn into their welcoming little family. Under the beguiling influence of the island and the ocean, JC gradually recovers, but his new-found openness is accompanied by a flood of memories that put a very different spin on the events preceding his friend’s death. Published as part of Macmillan’s ReaLITy Reads program, Before We Go Extinct has no easy answers. Rivers’ characters are complex – sometimes cruel, and other times child-like in their innocence – and she does not condescend with a tidy conclusion that ties up all the plot threads. With elegiac prose that moves seamlessly in and out of poetry, Before We Go Extinct is an absorbing riff on grief, teenage love, and great white sharks. Poignant and thought-provoking, Rivers’ autopsy of a suicide underscores the fragility of life and its many, messy complications.

Before We Go Extinct

Karen Rivers
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN 13: 978-0-374-30240-5

Karen Doerksen
Karen Doerksen Karen Doerksen lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta with her husband and four children. She works for the Edmonton Public Library, and holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of Alberta.  

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