2 out of 4 stars
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Dandy finds herself trapped in a body that it is not hers. As she recollects memories of her previous life, she makes the horrific realization that she was brutally murdered. She knows where she was buried, and she thinks she knows who did it. Dandy tries to tell those around her what had happened to her, but they all brush off her claims, except for her sister, Ana, who listens to her stories intently and genuinely tries to understand her. One day, Ana goes missing—she just seemingly vanishes into thin air. Dandy gets a sinking feeling that her sister is in danger and running out of time. Will she find her sister before it’s too late? Will Dandy be able to achieve retribution on those responsible for her murder?
I’ve Been Here Before by Nbs Malay is a mystery novel that takes readers on a complex journey of poverty, violence, gender dysphoria, and sexual abuse. It is the author’s debut novel and the first book in its intended series.
Written in the first-person point of view, the narrative gives us a deep understanding of the character’s inner conflicts, emotions, motivations, and actions. I appreciated this sense of intimacy because it feels like a friend sharing her experiences and personal story with me. Because of the fairly intricate storyline and the fact that the narrator reveals details of her life bit by bit, my mind, at first, became overwhelmed with the number of questions I had, but as the story progressed, some of my questions were answered. I liked that the author paints vivid images of the characters and events with her superb use of details. I also enjoyed the numerous plot twists that add new dimensions to the narrative.
There are a few issues that I encountered while reading the novel: The first issue is that there are a few instances in which the point of view shifts from first-person to third-person without warning, which had me backtracking and rereading sentences just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. These moments interrupted the flow of the narrative for me. The second issue is the new body occupied by the twenty-five-year-old Dandy was that of a nine-year-old fourth grader. I could understand why that specific character has the maturity of an adult; however, her nine-year-old classmates and friends were just as mature, making those characters’ classroom setting and age a lot less believable. The third issue is that there are a few discrepancies in the narrative. An example of one is that early in the story, Dandy tells us she remembers the day she died like it was yesterday. She then briefly describes her day and what she did. She also implies the events of that day may have led to her death, but towards the end, the events she reveals to us are completely different.
The novel is not a standalone, as the story ends abruptly with a cliffhanger, thereby leaving a number of questions/problems unsolved for the next book in the series. Additional revision and editing could wipe away the issues I mentioned above, including the few grammatical errors I came across. I would also suggest that the author reconsiders including her message to readers in the next sentence and on the same page as the ending. This stylistic choice caused me to think that was part of the narrative until I read it, which is how I found out the story had actually come to an end. The issues I encountered did affect my experience with this book, which is why I rate it 2 out of 4 stars. I would recommend this novel not only to those who don’t mind cliffhanger endings but also to those who enjoy mystery and suspense novels.
I’ve Been Here Before
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