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Book Thoughts: If I Die

Title: If I Die (Soul Screamers #5)

Author: Rachel Vincent

Publisher: Harlequin TEEN

Pages: 352

Release date: September 27, 2011

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Goodreads description:

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.

Anything.

My thoughts on If I Die are based on a re-read of this fifth full-length book in the series. I had a chance to read If I Die for the first time in June 2011 thanks to an ARC I received through a trade. And I’ve read it three more times since then. My thoughts are based on a re-read of the eBook I purchased and I re-read it having read all six full-length books and three novellas in the series.

For my original review, which posted in August 2011, I gave If I Die my off-the-menu six star rating. If I were to re-rate this book, I would once again give it six stars, though it deserves so many more. And as I reviewed it already, I have decided to share my thoughts on the re-read instead.

***

Re-reading If I Die brought relief and torment in equal measure. Knowing just how things ended provided some relief, as the not knowing was the hardest part of reading it the first time.

But at the same time, knowing all that was going to happen throughout the story – the good and the bad – was a form of torture in and of itself. Anticipating what was going to happen caused a whole different kind of anxiety to build, prolonged the heartache that wasn’t a sure thing on first read and made those moments in the story that much more emotional when they finally arrived.

Of all the books in the series up to this book’s release, If I Die was by far the most exciting, the most heartbreaking, the most shocking and the most deliciously tormenting. It kept me on edge, for every single read, until I devoured each and every word on each and every page.

From the very beginning this book hits you with a knockout punch. I was K.O.’ed on the first read. And while I was ready for it on subsequent reads it didn’t hurt all that much less. The fear and pain, the grief and the sense of loss just seeped out of the page and right onto me. I was drowning in the sadness and heartbreak I felt for all the characters. And that heartbreak didn’t lessen with any of the reads.

This book was definitely the most emotional when compared to its predecessors. Things are always amped up when the life of a major character hangs in the balance. But when that is combined with a complicated love story that gets all the more complex with a new love interest added to the mix, we’re talking an emotional rollercoaster ride that causes your heart to drop into the pit of your stomach over… and over… and over again.

I don’t think I ever loved the characters more than I did in this book – I certainly never felt as connected with them as I did until I read If I Die. And with each read I got to know them a little more, picking up on all the little details I missed while crying my eyes out. Though I’m sure I’m still missing a few as I haven’t yet made it through this book without sobbing.

Oh and I did not see the end coming the first time around. I was waiting for the Hail Mary pass. And waiting. And waiting. I also did not expect there to be another sucker punch at the end. But I really should have known. It is Rachel Vincent after all. And she likes to torment her characters as much as her readers. Maybe more. Probably more.

But it was one of those moments where you’re twisting and turning in agony, where your heart feels like it’s being squeezed, and then the floor drops out from under you and you feel like you’re falling in some kind of a death spiral. And no, I’m not exaggerating. It was one of those moments. Right there at the end. With barely any pages left for something, anything, to change.

I had to go back and re-read that one moment to see if it actually happened. Because I couldn’t really believe it was true. That the author would do yet one more thing to a character that had been through so much already. But she did.

And my reaction was the same no matter that I read it all before. On this read, as with all previous reads, I couldn’t stop from shouting out, “Noooooo!” I couldn’t stop from feeling that terrible sense of loss. I couldn’t stop from aching for the character who had to go through it, who felt responsible for it and who was helpless to do anything about it.

Yes, I’m being a bit cryptic – especially about that ending – just in case someone hasn’t read this book. Because stumbling upon that ending in a blog post, and not getting to experience it for oneself, would be even more of a tragedy than all the tragic events in this book combined.

If I Die is a book I can’t help but become emotionally invested in. I doesn’t matter that I know what happens to the characters. Rachel Vincent’s writing pulls me into the story so deeply – each and every time – that I feel everything all over again as if it’s new to me.

And everything is just so much more intense in this book. Everyone is going through so many layers of hurt, with only brief moments of joy, that you can’t help but empathize with all of them. Yes, even with Sabine.

So, what more can I say about If I Die that I haven’t already said in this post or in my review? Probably not much. Because I’ve had a lot to say about this book since I first read it.

But yes, it is my favorite book in the series, though it is tied with the next book, Before I Wake. Yes, it is, hands down, the most torturous of all the books. And yes it is tied with Before I Wake as the most heartbreaking.

And while there is all sorts of torment and heartbreak, there is no shortage of humor. That wonderful brand of sarcasm the author loves to infuse her characters’ dialogue with. Even in a book as sad and shocking and heartrending as this one. But it is those lines that allow you to take a breath and get a brief respite from that twisty-turny agony, before being plunged back in. Lines that can’t help but make you smile.

If I Die is the standout book in this series. And not just because its name differs in form from all previous books. It’s the game changer. It divides the series. There is what comes before. And then there is what comes after. And there is absolutely no going back. Not that you’d want to.

I definitely recommend reading this book more than once. Because this is such a shocking book, it is very likely that many of the finer points will be lost with just one read. And I would definitely recommend re-reading it prior to picking up Before I Wake, the next book in the series.

Oh and yes, knowing what happens in Before I Wake does alter the reading experience of this book. In all the best possible of ways.

***

I’ve already posted quite a few favorite passages for if If I Die in my teasers posts and I still don’t want to include a completely spoiler-y one here. But just to prove the point that this book gets right to it, here’s the very first passage in the book…

I used to think death was the worst thing that could happen to a person. I also used to think it was the last thing that could happen. But if I’ve learned anything from surrounding myself with reapers, and living nightmares, and my fellow bean sidhes, it’s this: I was wrong on both counts….

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