Another post which was part of the Soul Screamers Reading Challenge hosted by Fiktshun.
Sigh. I finished this one about three weeks before I wrote this post back in June and I wish I had posted the review when it was still fresher on my mind… though it still very much is. But this is a difficult book to review, because it’s almost impossible to say anything interesting and engaging about it without MAJOR spoilers. So my review will be short and I’ll talk more about my thoughts and feelings.
From the back of the book:
The entire school’s talking about the gorgeous new math teacher, Mr. Beck. Everyone except Kaylee Cavanaugh. After all, Kaylee’s no ordinary high-school junior. She’s a banshee – she screams when someone dies.
But the next scream might be for Kaylee
Yeah – it’s a shock to her, too. So to distract herself, Kaylee’s going to save every girl in school. Because that hot new teacher is really an incubus who feeds on the desire of unsuspecting students. The only girls immune to his lure are Kaylee and Sabine, her boyfriend’s needy ex-girlfriend. Now the unlikely allies have to get rid of Mr. Beck… before he discovers they aren’t quite human, either.
But Kaylee’s borrowed lifeline is nearing its end. And those who care about her will do anything to save her life.
This book is heartbreaking – and it changes EVERYTHING. Seriously, this one’s an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end. I wanted to read it all in one go, but alas, there are things like work and university classes…
There’s no rest for Kaylee and her friends. After quite a few of her teachers died, their posts are being filled – and one of the teachers is inhumanly attractive. An incubus. Not just that, but an incubus who would do anything to procreate… even if it means impregnating teenage girls.
But Kaylee has her own problems. The situation with Nash is still not quite sorted out when a new – and quite final – problem arises. Kaylee’s lifespan, borrowed from her mother, is running out in a few days. And it isn’t possible to make the trade for someone else’s life a second time. This time, she really will die. Even if her father would be ready to sacrifice himself for her.
If you are going to die in six days, what do you do? How far do you go, and with whom? Is forgiving your boyfriend only because you are going to die anyway a good idea? Do morally right and wrong choices even still matter in this situation? Is there any way at all Kaylee’s life can be saved? Can Kaylee find a way to stop her incubus math teacher and save her best friend before she dies?
As if all that weren’t enough, Kaylee also has her assigned reaper breathing down her neck and taunting her because he has a personal interest in her death.
And then there is Tod… and his name must put an end to the spoiler-free review.
BEYOND THIS LINE LIES SPOILERY GOODNESS
I am so glad Fiktshun’s challenge motivated me to read this series! It’s so well-crafted without ever appearing artificial. It doesn’t shy away from showing the consequences of the choices the characters make.
But If I Die… wow. It just takes everything to a new level.
And now I need to talk about Tod and Kaylee. Actually, Tod is the character I got to know first in the series. I downloaded the Reaper novella from Rachel Vincent’s website when it was still free to get a taste of her style. About halfway in, I decided that I had to read this series and start at the beginning. So I knew from the start that Tod had given his life for Nash, and that he’d actually seen Kaylee first (during My Soul To Lose, when she was in the psychiatric ward). Kaylee and Tod just fit so well together. They both work so hard to rescue people, even the ones they might not be particularly close to. They are selfless and courageous. Seeing Tod hand Thane over to Avery, never planning to tell Kaylee about it… I had a hard time not crying on a well-populated train ride, especially with the scenes that followed.
I really liked Nash in the beginning, but ever since the whole Frost issue came up, I knew that there was just no way he and Kaylee could work out together. Addiction and (self)indulgence are too much a part of his personality. Be it substances or people, he seems to be unable to help himself. His obsession with Sabine. How easy he fell into the Frost pattern, and then his spectacular relapse. How he betrayed Kaylee’s trust over and over. How he’s such an asshole when she comes back, only thinking of how she ‘framed him for murder’ (like she had a choice) and not at all of how she died and what she went through. I think the dynamic between him and Sabine just works better. Nash was right – Kaylee doesn’t need anything from him. Or more like, he cannot give what she needs, both because of his personality and his ‘position’. But it’s also somehow not that easy to picture Kaylee just going from one brother to the other, even though in the novel it was somehow not that weird. They just ‘get’ one another.
I don’t know what I would have done in Kaylee’s position. I don’t know whether I could have been selfless enough to want to bring down one last bad guy before I die. I definitely wouldn’t have kept going to school like nothing happened. But what REALLY intrigued me even though no character in the novel commented much on it is: why did Kaylee’s borrowed lifespan run out so quickly? Her mother was a banshee! It should have lasted much longer than just 13 years!
And then the ending. Reading her fight against Beck made me slightly nauseous. She was so brave! She fought so hard, to the very end. When she pulled that stake out of her own body – woah. Goosebumps Ha! Moment. He deserved it. And I can’t wait to see what awaits her in her new ‘life’ in the Reclamation Department – I loved seeing her negotiate with Madeline, and I’m curious to see how she handles her new abilities.
So… a big fat 5 stars for this one. I can’t wait to read Before I Wake! Topping If I Die is a tough job, but I’m sure Rachel Vincent is up to it…