Before I Wake is book six of the Soul Screamers series and I will be talking about major spoilers from previous books as they kind of set the scene for this book. So if you haven't read If I Die - run now!
Anyway, so Before I Wake is the novel about Kaylee's adjustment from being an alive banshee to a not-so-alive banshee. Having been offered a job as an 'extractor' at the end of If I Die, Kaylee is still with us. And enjoying her whirlwind romance with Tod while trying to reassure everybody not in the know that she isn't dead and continuing at school. She didn't have to.. she is dead. But she has some unfinished business to take care of and the school seems to be the place she is most likely to find it.
I love novels about people becoming part of a new species and coming to terms with their new selves. This is one of the things I really liked about Before I Wake because while we are six books into the series and the idea of "dead but still with us" characters is nothing new, we experience Kaylee's becoming an extractor through her eyes. An extractor is more-or-less somebody who deals with stolen souls and the like and recovers them to their rightful place. As Kaylee is a banshee, this makes her the ideal candidate plus, the extraction department has a staff shortage and somebody is stealing souls. The trouble is, when she's on her own during this adjustment period, she forgets how to be human and we have to deal with these depressingly low areas of the novel which makes it difficult to enjoy in places. Sure the series has been getting a little darker but depression is something else entirely and I didn't feel like it was dealt with very well because the only way she feels able to turn this off is to be with Tod who teaches her how to live with being able to make herself as corporeal or incorporeal as she likes.
What's more, Nash and Sabine are being their usual selfish selves. I still can't understand why Kaylee sticks around them when they treat her like dirt, it really reminds me of an abusive relationship with Sabine tagging along expecting everything to go her way. Nash very much goes into whiny-little-teenage-boy mode in Before I Wake. He's still in love with Kaylee but she's moved on to Tod now and Nash is left with Sabine. He still has his addiction to cope with and after Kaylee framed him for her murder, he blames her for his little stint in prison too. As if she had a choice. Nothing makes me shout at a book more than frustrating characters and Nash and Sabine have to be some of the worst for this. What's worse? Kaylee goes with it! "I couldn't blame Nash for hating me." Yes, you can! You were murdered and having your best friend and family threatened. Don't be such a doormat! Sorry, getting into rant mode. This drives me mad and somewhat ruins the series for me.
However, it is saved by Vincent's magnificent storytelling. Even when I only kind of like the main story in the novel (I'm just bored of Avari and the hellions by now), I still find myself invested in what happens to our characters. Yes, even Nash and Sabine. But most of all Tod, Alex, Emma, and Kaylee's dad. Despite him abandoning her for most of her life and just deciding to be back in it one day, I like him. He clearly realises what a huge mistake he made and he loves his daughter. And Tod.. while I'd like to see Kaylee stand up on her own a little more without being selfish and reckless (and yes I consider her bouts of self sacrifice selfish), I do love the way Tod treats her. He tells her how amazing and wonderful she is when Nash would have treated her like a naive little girl. He lets her make her own decisions where Nash would have tried to stop her. And he tells her how wrong Nash is when Kaylee starts agreeing with the nasty things he says to her. He also makes me laugh, which is a bit of comic relief very much needed when you consider how dark this series has been getting.
So far, the book was maybe getting a 3 star rating. I liked it, but it wasn't the best thing I'd ever read and didn't quite live up to If I Die. Then we're struck with that ending. Those of you who have already read Before I Wake will know what I mean but.. oh my god. When Rachel Vincent wants to break your heart and leave you gasping for more, she bloody well means it. The ending of Before I Wake is so superb and shocking that I had to raise my rating by a whole star. It was that good. Before I Wake is an overall enjoyable Soul Screamers installment.