Before We Were Strangers (Renee Carlino)


To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

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 never thought I would find someone to replace my Isaac for me. (Mud Vein reference for those who don’t know). I’ve met a couple who come close. Everett from Ten Below Zero and Will from Me Before You just to name a couple. But Matthias has come the closest. Sigh..


Angry Frustrated animated GIFMy emotions were all over the place with this book from the get go. One minute I was giggling and laughing, the next I couldn’t breath from trying so hard not to cry, then I just wanted to scream at unfortunate circumstances that Matt and Grace found themselves into. This is when you know it’s a good story. One that tests your feelings. One that leaves you guessing what you’ll feel next.

This book spans 15 years and it’s told from dual point which I always love. It was beautiful, heart wrenching, angsty, fun, and intense.

Matt transfers to New York during his senior year in college due to some family circumstances and found himself being neighbors with a fun-spirited girl, Graceland Marie Starr. These two quickly became attached to one another and happily spend their final school year together. They forge a friendship unlike any other that I’ve ever seen. Both are Art Majors and they enjoy the same kind of music/musician. I like their easy and casual relationship in the beginning and I liked how it wasn’t rushed. It was just an easy and fun friendship. Grace was Matt’s first muse and Matt was Grace’s number one and biggest fan. I think that is why it was so hard on me when timing screwed with them. I felt it. I felt it to my core.

head animated GIF Friendship turns into more. Love complicates their priorities in life. Fate and dreams steps in and offers them a once in a lifetime opportunities to chase their dreams. They’re both very passionate about their art. If you loved someone, would you let your feelings hold them back from becoming the person they were meant to be?

Fifteen years later, when their eyes meet for the first time after more than a decade, I swear I felt that from behind the book.
feels animated GIF I loved Matt. Genuinely and completely. The things he did for Grace, the way he felt about her was just amazing and beautiful. The way he was so passionate about everything. Ugh. And he feels. And he cries. And he becomes vulnerable. And I just love him. He was perfect. I loved older Matt. I loved all his insecurities, his worries, his regret, and his hope.

My only problem? Yes I only have one problem in this book. MISCOMMUNICATION. Some of these things could have been avoided had they not ran. Just talked.

confused animated GIF Renee brings out painful emotions and gives us a tale of love and a life to remember. She did this story justice by making it primarily in Matt’s point of view. I think it helped me in so many ways. Had it been more so in Grace’s I’m afraid I’ll feel different. This really was Matt’s story to tell.

“If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

I don’t five star many books, but I five starred the shit out of this one. It was a beath of fresh air from what I usually read. No whining, no drama, and straight to the point. It was real and it was fast loved by me.
Billboard Music Awards animated GIF


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