*Happy happy dance.* For fans the Soul Screamers series, this book will either be everything you want...or everything you feared most. I fall firmly into the "incoherently happy" camp after reading it.
Soul Screamers as a whole is kind of a funny animal. The mythology is pretty unusual and I really like the unique world that Rachel Vincent creates with her banshees, maras, grim reapers, and demon breath. The stories are admittedly fairly straightforward (think Morganville rather than Chicagoland or Vampire Academy) and Kaylee Cavanaugh sometimes seemed very young in the beginning. But as Kaylee's problems became bigger and her relationships with her best friend and her family and her boyfriend became more involved, this somehow became a series that I really, really enjoy. She makes plenty of mistakes, particularly in that last agonizing book My Soul to Steal, but they are ones that you completely understand and sympathize with.
If I Die presents Kaylee with the biggest challenges she's ever faced in her life--she suspects that attractive new math teacher may not be everything he appears to be, she's still fighting her complicated feelings for her possibly irredeemable boyfriend Nash, and to top it off, she receives world-changing news that gives her only a matter of days to put everything right.
I really love Kaylee after this book. One of the things that surprised me is that she meets all of her problems with admirable maturity and sensitivity. There are a number of really difficult situations she has to resolve before time runs out, but instead of being self-pitying or railing against fate, she immediately takes action to help the people around her, all the while remaining true to her emotional self; that's no small feat under the best of circumstances. I'm impressed by the author's frank handling of teen sexuality, which is very um, enthusiastically present in this book but written with exactly the right amount of excitement and humor and gravity. Most importantly, it's also included in the right context of Kaylee's life.
I'm also really happy with the way the author handled the tricky situation with Kaylee's relationship with her boyfriend. Nash was previously hooked on demon breath and his ex-girlfriend the evil Sabine complicated things further. Nash's behavior, particularly [how he dealt with his ex and the terrible, terrible thing he did to compel Kaylee ], changed Kaylee's perception of him irrevocably, and the author does a terrific job of showing how agonizing and sad it is when feelings and priorities change with time. Anyone who read the excellent Soul Screamers short Reaper also knows the complicated story behind what Nash's brother Tod has done for him and will be thrilled to see Tod finally being present in the book in a big way. Fangirl moment: [Yaaaay! At last at last at last. I'm so happy with where this story went. :D
If you haven't read the series, it's one that is extremely entertaining and matures in surprising ways with its protagonist. And if you're already a fan of the series, well...this latest installment hooks you from the very first chapter. It's important to read this as quickly as possible so that major plot developments aren't accidentally spoiled for you, since this is a game-changing book--so don't wait too long! You're in for an awesome ride.