Before & After You & Me | Dallas Woodburn


Coming May 7th, 2024 from Owl Hollow Press; 303 pages 

About the Author: “Dallas Woodburn is an award-winning author of fiction, nonfiction, and plays; an in-demand book coach; and host of the Thriving Authors Podcast. She has helped dozens of women around the world write and publish the books inside their hearts to grow their businesses, grow their impact, and grow their legacies. 

Dallas’s debut YA novel, The Best Week That Never Happened, was a #1 New Release on Amazon, a Featured Bestseller on Apple Books, and the Grand Prize Winner of the Dante Rossetti Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. She is also the author of the motivational writing handbook Your Book Matters: 52 love notes from my creative heart to yours; the YA novel Thanks, Carissa, For Ruining My Life; and the short story collections Woman, Running Late, in a Dress and How to Make Paper When the World is Ending. Her novel Before & After You & Me and nonfiction book 1,001 Ways to be Kind are both forthcoming in 2024. 

A former John Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing, Dallas has received the Cypress & Pine Short Fiction Award, the international Glass Woman Prize, and four Pushcart Prize nominations. Her short stories have appeared in ZYZZYVA, The Nashville Review, Louisiana Literature, North Dakota Quarterly, and many other journals, and her nonfiction has been published in Family Circle, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, The Los Angeles Times, Modern Loss, and more than two dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul series books. Her plays have been produced in New York City, Los Angeles, South Lake Tahoe, and Maryland. Dallas lives with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area in a comfortably messy house with overflowing bookshelves” (Bio from author’s website).

Find Dallas Woodburn on the following platforms:

“Our wavery reflections are visible in the calm, still waters of Robbie Zwick’s pool. Right here, right now, my two selves–Before and After–begin to slowly, tentatively, knit back together.”

Before Wabash Academy, high school sophomore Emma Mason was content: content in her close friendship with Céline, her place on the track team with her loving boyfriend, Hunter, and her art class with bubbly and supportive Mrs. Muna. After transferring to Wabash for her junior year, however, Emma is doubtful and burdened by growing pains, contemplating her relationship with Hunter while on the plane ride back to Buenaventura, California for winter break. Emma is determined to prolong the breakup until the end of the holidays, but her plans fall through as soon as the plane touches down, just as her once-lovesick feelings for Hunter take off and fly away. Emma couldn’t help but set Hunter free, but the night following the break-up ends in sirens as Hunter dives into the shallow end of the pool, paralyzing him from the waist down and robbing him of the ability to run ever again. Burdened by guilt and stuck in a toxic loop of self-blame, Emma returns to Wabash a shell of a person, hiding behind secret paintings of Hunter’s legs and feet as she navigates friendships and relationships that may never be the same.

Like Emma Mason painting a glorious canvas in the Alumni Garden shed, Dallas Woodburn beautifully articulates this novel and lets the words delicately bloom on each page. The summary on the back cover of Before & After You & Me leaves much to be discovered, blindly leading the reader into a world of drama, depression, and discovery that was completely unexpected, but welcomed all the same. The chapters are arranged in a braided narrative, simultaneously piecing the story together like a jigsaw puzzle of before and after Emma attends Wabash Academy for the Arts, before and after The Accident. This type of storytelling was new to me, but I must admit that it added an extra layer of intrigue as both narratives intertwined and filled in gaps left by the other. Reading Before & After You & Me felt like reading a beautiful poem; Woodburn has a way of expressing color, emotions, and experiences on blank pages with only her words as her medium. The similes and symbolism throughout the novel mirror the brush strokes on Emma’s canvases, which made me appreciate the growth of each character, especially Emma, as she learns to embrace the changes in her life rather than villainize them. When I started reading Before & After You & Me, I had no idea of the depth and emotions and self-discovery I was about to explore, but, looking back, I wish I could read it for the first time again.

Before & After You & Me releases on May 7th, 2024.

Pine Reads Review would like to thank Dallas Woodburn and Owl Hollow Press, LLC for sending us an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes are taken from an advanced copy and may be subject to change before final publication.

Callie Andrews, Pine Reads Review Writer, Social Media, & Web