Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Series: Soul Screamers #6
Published by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. on July 1, 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Length: 10 hours 24 minutes
I died on a Thursday—killed by a monster intent on stealing my soul. The good news? He didn't get it. The bad news? Turns out not even death will get you out of high school….
Covering up her own murder was one thing, but faking life is much harder than Kaylee Cavanaugh expected. After weeks spent "recovering", she's back in school, fighting to stay visible to the human world, struggling to fit in with her friends and planning time alone with her new reaper boyfriend.
But to earn her keep in the human world, Kaylee must reclaim stolen souls, and when her first assignment brings her face-to-face with an old foe, she knows the game has changed. Her immortal status won't keep her safe. And this time Kaylee isn't just gambling with her own life….
My Initial Reaction…
With Kaylee’s death in If I Die, the series has changed a bit and for the better. Kaylee’s not the same person as she was and the way her death has changed every aspect of her “life” complicates the story and makes it grow up a bit.
At this point in the series, I’m no longer surprised by Ronconi’s ability to capture nuances of personality in her reading. Kaylee has changed in profound ways and Ronconi gets it. Kaylee has the same voice, but she sounds different and it’s brilliant. You can feel her struggle to hold on to life through Ronconi’s reading. She just nails it every time!
All the characters are really growing and changing in Before I Wake, but no one changes more than Kaylee. When she made the deal to work as a reclaimationist and clear Nash’s name, she never dreamed that resuming her normal life would be so hard. She doesn’t have to eat or sleep or move. She easily fades away during conversations and staying visible during the school day is beyond hard. Now that she’s dead, she’s looking at life differently. Her priorities have shifted drastically. And then there’s her relationship with Tod. Tod is her lifeline, literally. He keeps her alive and I really enjoyed seeing this loving, soft side of Tod. Their interactions are equal parts sweet and intense; their relationship has grown more in these few short weeks than her relationship with Nash ever did.
Nash, on the other hand, is struggling. Just because he was cleared of all charges, doesn’t mean the “court of public opinion” cleared him. And it doesn’t mean he’s forgiven Kaylee. I expected him to return to Sabine and four things to neatly work out, but it’s not that easy. Nash is confused and not ready to take what Sabine has to offer. He’s also not ready to talk to his brother. While I understood his upset at her cheating on him, I can’t understand his anger at her for framing him for murder. I found his response childish and really hoped he would suck it up and grow up.
With the conclusion of If I Die this book promised a new Kaylee, if for no other reason than that she was now dead, and new adventures, since she’s now working as a soul reclaimationist. This book starts out a few weeks after the conclusion of If I Die, with Kaylee getting ready for her first day back to school after her supposed near-death encounter with the Math teacher. But Kaylee has been learning that playing alive is not so easy – just keeping herself visible is hard, not to mention those horrible hours of the night when Tod is working and everyone else she knows is asleep.
And then there’s the job – her new boss chooses her first day back to school to test out Kaylee’s skills on a rogue reaper. He’s not the reason they recruited Kaylee, he’s just the test. The simple task comes with a surprise – she knows the rogue reaper and his reappearance can only spell trouble for her and her loved ones. Not to mention the mystery killer, who’s proving incredibly difficult for the reclaimations department to stop, but Kaylee must help take down, beginner or not.
The gang is damaged – Nash is reeling from both Tod and Kaylee’s betrayal, as well as Kaylee framing him for her murder (regardless of the reason), Sabine is struggling to make Nash see her, and Kaylee’s struggling to just be “alive” – but they must come together again if they’re going to survive this new attack.
For me this was the best of the series so far. I was shocked several times and brought to tears at least once, not to mention the exciting developments in Kaylee and Tod’s relationship. So excited to read the next one!