Lisa Schroeder’s new young adult novel ‘The Day Before’ has a mystery at its heart that will pull teen readers in from the start, with a setting that will remind Chicagoland teens of Shedd Aquarium or a day on a quiet shore of Lake Michigan.
Much of the story’s appeal is its slow reveal of the challenges that face the novel’s main characters, Amber and Cade, two strangers who have each left their family and friends behind for what they hope will be a perfect day on an Oregon beach—the day before everything in their lives will change.
For example, who is the mysterious woman, Jeanie, who is sending Amber letters, begging for the chance for her and her husband to get to know Amber? Why is Amber ditching school and spending all her money on a limo to get her to the beach where her family used to vacation and a secluded cabin where she can spend the night on her own? What is she running from? And what secrets does Cade, the boy she meets for the first time while gazing at jellyfish and sharks, chocolate chip starfish and playful otters, hold? What’s the reason for the despair Amber can see even as Cade relaxes enough to let her into his world—so long as she doesn’t ask what he’s doing on the coast that day?
From the moment of their chance meeting at an Oregon aquarium, the attraction Amber and Cade feel for one another is instant. The art form that Schroeder uses to tell their story—free verse—captures that attraction in a way that makes each word resonate with her audience:
“His eyes are deep brown.
Deep like a good conversation.
Deep like a hole.
Deep, of course,
like the ocean.”
And for Amber, a drummer for a band back home, the ease with which she and Cade fall into conversation and end up deciding to share that day with each other reminds her of the joy she feels on stage, when she can cast the pressures that are mounting at home aside for the length of a set:
And in my mind,
I come in with
A drum fill that makes
The crowd go wild.”
But even as she feels comfortable enough with Cade to reveal why she left everything behind to be on the coast that day, he won’t discuss what brought him there, and warns her not to push. And as attraction evolves into sweet feelings for a boy who shows he’s wise beyond his years in the advice he offers to Amber, the darkness she sees in Cade even when he lets down his guard enough to laugh with her scares her. Soon, it becomes her mission to help him—but will he reject her for trying?
‘The Day Before’ will appeal to teens for the seemingly effortless way in which layers of the story are revealed, with just the right pacing, carefully chosen detail, and emotions that ring true. Its form will delight poetry fans as well as reluctant readers looking for a romance they can fall into easily, with enough surprises to keep them guessing until the very last pages.