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Sunday, 22 July 2012

Book Review: Before I Wake - Rachel Vincent

Published June 26 2012 by Harlequin Teen

Goodreads Description: 
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....

As the 6th book in the Soul Screamers series, I have been waiting not-so-patiently for its release since If I Die (Soul Screamers #5) came out last year. And the wait was definitely worth every second of this book. It was so filled with action and other goodness that I had to read it twice to absorb everything to the fullest extent.

For those who haven't read the previous book, it's a pretty big spoiler that our protagonist, Kaylee Cavanaugh, died but was brought back as an extractor, someone who had a similar skill set to that of reapers, but had a different job, which was to extract souls away from those who don't belong with them. But despite that, her actual status is that she is dead because her life ended at the hands of a succubus who was determined on stealing her soul. So anyway, Before I Wake tells the story of Kaylee's afterlife and the consequences that follow.

As mentioned in the description, pretending to be "alive" is a challenge that Kaylee is constantly at war with. Her heart no longer beats if she doesn't concentrate, as well as her breathing. Heck, just the will to be visible and audible to others is a chore. If Kaylee briefly slipped up, her visibility will fade from the physical plane and that would be a huge problem if she suddenly disappeared in the middle of class. But most of all, the nothingness that Kaylee feels when she is alone with her thoughts are unbearable. Because she is undead, she is facing eternity of the same routine over and over, with the exception of when she has to work as her role as an extractor. Everything that had an appeal in life was no longer relevant in Kaylee's afterlife. She couldn't sleep and she didn't even have to eat or drink. With being only a month dead, forever seemed like a long time. The monotony of it is overwhelming.

Luckily, she has an undead reaper boyfriend who had once been through and felt everything that Kaylee is going through. Tod is Kaylee's saviour in so many ways, though she has saved him countless of times as well. While nothing seems to matter to Kaylee anymore, the only time where she feels her heart beating is when she is with Tod. In a way, they're both anchors to each other because they enable the other to keep their humanity and the will to remain "living" as ironic as that is. Throughout the book, when everything seemed to be in black and white, Tod was the only one who was in colour. He loved her more than his afterlife, as proven in the last book, where he refused to reap her soul and thus lost his life (which Kaylee then bargained back when she was requested to be an extractor).

But anyway, moving onto the rest of the plot. Shortly after Kaylee decides to return to school, there was talk about a serial soul thief who was going around taking unauthorized souls and it was up to her to reclaim them. The first time around, it turned out to be a rogue reaper, one that she hoped she would never see again, but like her, he had managed to escape death again. And from there, things just got worse when the identity of the actual soul thief was revealed and the horrors that came with it.

I enjoyed reading about the healing that took place in this book. Mainly the forgiveness between Nash and Kaylee. Now recovering from his recent relapse of Frost addiction, Nash is starting to piece his life together again and growing as a character. I admired the way that instead of living his life in ignorance and bliss, he went to Kaylee to talk about the pain that he felt and from there, they reached a tentative agreement to remain as friends despite everything that had happened between them. However, that didn't mean that Nash forgave his undead brother that easily. Although it was a little frustrating at times to see the Hudson brothers at ends with each other, it was quite amusing in some instances as well (ex. the shirt scene at Nash's house). And when they settled their differences long enough to work towards a common goal, it was evident that they are a powerful team.

I also really liked the development of Kaylee's relationship with her dad. Knowing that he lost his daughter and couldn't save her, it had a huge impact on Aiden Cavanaugh. It hurt him every time Kaylee succumbed to depression over her state of not-being there. She had no will to live because nothing was relevant to her anymore. But as her father, he did all he could for her, even if it meant accepting her reaper boyfriend, who he initially disliked. That path wasn't the quickest, it was definitely heart warming for both Kaylee and the reader to see that he honestly did believe that they belonged together and that they could help each other withstand eternity.

This book's conflict was initially a little confusing because it involved so many characters and breached many of the original rules regarding the real world and the Netherworld, but after a second read, it made more sense. So far, this book definitely had the most death and each of them had their impact on Kaylee. However, one in particular made me tear up for a good 15 or so minutes, because I would have never expected this particular sweet character to not make it to the end of the series. And the emotions that Kaylee felt regarding this character's death hurt all the more because of the way that they died.

But even with this unexpected turn of events, I really love Tod for being there for her. I couldn't imagine a more solid anchor of support who was always present by her side. And his love for Kaylee strengthened her enough to carry on, swearing to turn her pain into a weapon that could be used against her enemies.

The ending of Before I Wake will leave readers gasping for more as another unexpected situation turns up, hardening Kaylee's resolve to strike back against those who have hurt everyone she had cared for. With only one more novel in the series, I am very excited and anxious to see how things will end up for Kaylee and her friends.

Some quotes that I liked:
-"Forever used to feel like a curse. Now it feels like a promise." (p. 65)

-"I signed on for the role of 'boyfriend', not 'conscience'." (p. 66)

-"Of course. 'A reaper is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous...'" He shrugged. "It gets boring after that. But this situation is clearly covered under the 'helpful' category." (p. 116)

-"Whenever you want. Death itself would wait for you..."(p. 164) 

-"You're not lost, (name omitted). You can't ever be lost, because I'll always know where you are. And if I'm not there with you, I'm on my way, and nothing standing between us will be standing for very long." (p. 269)

Source: Owned
My rating: 5 Coffee cups (Loved it and couldn't put it down)


  1. I can't wait to read this one.

    Actually, I'm lying: I've self-imposed a waiting period because I want to listen to the audiobook (I did the whole series on audio and the actress is amazing!) so for now I'm stranded. Gah!

    But I'm really looking forward to seeing those quotes in context!

    Thanks for the great review,

    1. Ah I see. I haven't had the chance to check out their audiobooks yet, but now I really want to! Yes! Every moment in this book was a breath taker and even with a second re-read, almost everything felt as brand new as though I was reading it the first time. Despite knowing what was going to happen next, I could still feel the roller coaster of emotions attached to each scene. It was so good!