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Before I Wake Paperback – June 19, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews
Book 6 of 8 in the Soul Screamers Series

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It's Scary Out There - Teen reads to chill your summer
The Telling
Scary Out There
Possession
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About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Vincent loves good chocolate, comfortable jeans, and serial commas. She’s older than she looks and younger than she feels, but is convinced that for every day she spends writing, one more day will be added to her lifespan. Now absorbed in the dark, tangled loyalties of her UNBOUND world, as well as the travails of a teenage banshee in her SOUL SCREAMERS world, Rachel can be found online at www.rachelvincent.com or urbanfantasy.blogspot.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.



I was a virgin sacrifice. And yeah, it's just as creepy as it sounds. I died on a Thursday, at twenty-seven minutes after midnight, 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….

I've always hated Mondays, but this particular Monday, a beautiful day in late April, seemed ready to deliver its very own brand of hell. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror at seven-thirty in the morning, staring at myself, trying to decide exactly how alive I should look. In the movies, people are always faking their own deaths, but I couldn't think of anyone else—real or fictional—who'd faked survival. I'd have to blaze this trail all on my own.

How pale would a person look twenty-nine days after being stabbed to death? That would depend on the severity of the wound, right? On the number of organs injured? On the amount of blood lost? Since no one at school knew any of those details, they wouldn't know if my performance was off. So I could play the part however I wanted. Right?

No one had to know that my pale skin and sweaty palms were really the result of a colossal case of first-day-back nerves.

My stomach churned as I stared at my reflection, wondering how I could possibly feel so different, yet look exactly the same as I had before I died, except for the new scar. Exactly the same as I would look next year, and the year after that, and a decade after that, and for as many centuries as my afterlife lasted.

"Kaylee! Breakfast!" my father called from the kitchen.

"I'm dead, Dad," I called back, dropping my hairbrush into the drawer. "I don't eat anymore."

A minute later, my father appeared in the doorway in a grease-splattered T-shirt and jeans, frowning at me. "You don't have to eat. That doesn't mean you shouldn't. I think you'd feel a lot better if you had something warm in your stomach."

I turned and leaned against the counter, crossing my arms over my chest. "That's not really how it works."

"No arguments. I made pancakes and bacon. I want you at the table in five minutes."

I sighed as his footsteps retreated toward the kitchen. He was trying. I wasn't sure what he was trying, but he was serious about it.

I crossed the hall into my room for a pair of shoes and blinked in surprise at the empty space at the center of my room, where the bed used to be. It had been four weeks since we'd gotten rid of the ruined mattress and sheets, and I still wasn't used to the new purple quilt that had replaced the blue comforter my psychotic math teacher had bled out on.

After my death, I'd avoided my room for nearly a week until my father figured out what I'd been too embarrassed to tell him—that I couldn't go in there without seeing it all in my head. Reliving my own death.

That night, he and Tod had rearranged every piece of furniture I owned until my room was unrecognizable. That was three weeks ago, and I still couldn't get used to seeing my bed against the wall, my desk slanted across one corner of the room. But this time when I glanced into that corner, I couldn't help but smile.

Tod sat in my desk chair, his curls golden in the glow from my bedside lamp, his eyes as blue as the ocean, the one time I'd seen it. Styx was curled up on my bed, asleep, paying the reaper no attention whatsoever. Half Pomeranian, half Netherworld guard dog, she was the fiercest, most dangerous six pounds of frizzy fur and pointy teeth I'd ever seen, other than her littermates. She was also a living, breathing, growling security system, bred to warn me when danger approached on either side of the world barrier.

It had taken her weeks to understand that growling at Tod wasn't going to get rid of him.

Tod's brother—my ex—was wrestling with that same conclusion.

Tod stood as soon as he saw me, and I couldn't resist a smile, in spite of the nerves still twisting my insides into knots.

My arms slid around his neck and delicious, tiny little sparks shot up my spine as his hand settled at my waist, and I secretly marveled at the fact that I was allowed to touch him whenever I wanted.

This was still new, me and Tod. Our relationship was only a month old, yet somehow, he was the only thing that still seemed to fit, since my death. Going through the motions in the rest of my life—an ironic term, if I'd ever heard one—now felt like trying to fit into clothes I'd outgrown. Everything was uncomfortable, and too tight, and not as bright as I remembered.

But Tod was the same. Only better.

"Aren't you supposed to be at work? Eventually Levi's going to notice that you keep skipping out," I said when I finally had to let him go. Levi, his boss, had a soft spot for Tod, but in their line of work, leniency could only go so far. Tod was a reaper—more than two and a half years dead, but perpetually nearly eighteen. He worked the midnight-to-noon shift at the local hospital, reaping the souls of those scheduled to die on his watch.

Except when he was delivering pizza. And helping me pretend I was still alive.

"I had a break and I thought you might be nervous this morning. So I brought you this." He handed me a paper cup of coffee, and I took a cautious sip. Caramel latte. My favorite, and the only edible thing I still seemed to crave since my unfortunate demise. "And this." He spread his arms, showing off a physique even death couldn't mar, and I wanted to touch him some more. Then some more after that. "I figure one or the other will make you feel better."

"Both. They both make me feel better." I pulled him close for a kiss, then didn't want to let him go. "I don't wanna go back to school today."

"So don't. Come hang out with me at work." Tod dropped back into my desk chair and swiveled to face me while I knelt to grab my sneakers from beneath my bed. "We can play naughty dress up with the hospital gowns and rearrange the supply closets."

"Isn't that dangerous? What if they can't find some important drug or equipment in an emergency?"

Tod shrugged. "Nobody's gonna die without my help, anyway, so what's the harm?"

The harm? Potential brain damage. Paralysis. And all kinds of other nonlethal catastrophes. Fortunately, his grin said he was kidding, so I didn't have to go through with the lecture.

"Kaylee!" my dad shouted, and Tod sniffed in the direction of the hall.

"Is that bacon?"

"And pancakes." I shoved my foot into the sneaker and tugged on the laces to tighten it. "He thinks I should start my first day back at school with a healthy breakfast. I think he's been spending too much time with your mom." In addition to being an amazing amateur baker, Harmony Hudson was the only fellow female bean sidhe I knew.

"It's not a bad idea," Tod said. "Breakfast is my third favorite meal of the day."

"Not today." Standing, I tugged him closer so I could slide my hand behind his neck, my fingers playing in the soft curls that ended there. "I think he needs some father-daughter time."

As grateful as my father was for everything Tod had done to try to save my life, he'd had his fill of houseguests for a while. Tod and I had spent nearly every waking moment together since my death, and for two people who didn't need sleep, that was a lot of moments, even with his jobs and my training standing in the way.

"Oh, fine. Enjoy your pancakes and homework."

"Thanks. Enjoy your sick people. Will I see you at lunch?"

The blues in his irises swirled like cobalt flames, and something deep inside me smoldered. "You'll be the only one who sees me. You don't need to eat, anyway, right?"

"Oh, now I don't need to eat…"

He pulled me close again, and that kiss was longer, deeper. Hotter. Touching Tod made me feel more alive than anything else had since the moment my heart stopped beating.

"Kaylee, please come eat something!" my dad yelled, and Tod groaned in frustration. He held me tighter for just a second, then stepped back and let his hand trail down my arm slowly. Then he was gone, and for a moment, I felt empty.

That was a scary moment, but one I couldn't quite shake. I'd thought that being dead-but-still-there would feel a lot like being alive, but I was wrong. I felt like I was out of sync with the world. Like the planet had kept spinning while I was gone, and now that I was back, I couldn't catch up.

I grabbed my latte and headed for the kitchen, where I dropped into my chair at the card table we'd been meaning to replace with a real one since my dad had moved back to town seven months ago. The plate in front of me held four pancakes and—I swear—half a pound of bacon. Fried, not microwaved, as evidenced by the grease splattered all over the stove and adjacent countertop. My dad was serious about this traditional home-life thing.

It was kinda cute.

My father pulled out his own chair and started to hand me one of the coffee mugs he held, but then he noticed the latte, and his smile slipped a little. "Tod?"

"Yeah, but he's gone. He was just trying to help."

He set both mugs in front of his own plate and picked up his fork. "I'm going to assume the steaming cup of Starbucks means he wasn't here all night?"

Translation: Your undead boyfriend is supposed to be gone by eleven so you can pretend to sleep.

"He works nights, Dad." But we both knew that didn't mean anything, when the commute was instantaneous.

For the first couple of days after my death, my father had tried to stay up all night to make sure there were no unauthorized visits, and I didn't bother to point out how futile his efforts were. If Tod and I didn't want to be seen or heard, we

- wouldn't be. Both reapers and extractors—my official new title with the reclamation department—had selective visibility, audibility, and corporeality. Basically, we could choose who saw and heard us, and whether or not we existed physically on the human plane.

Sounds cool, I know, but it comes with a hell of a price.

My dad set his fork down and I caught a rare glimpse of the concern swirling in his eyes. "I'm worried about you, Kaylee."

"Don't be. Nothing's changed." But that wasn't true, and even if it had been, it wouldn't have set him at ease. My life wasn't exactly normal before I died, and death had done nothing to improve that.

"You don't eat. You hardly ever talk anymore, and I haven't seen you watch TV or pick up a book in days. I walk into your room, and half the time you're not there, even when you're there."

"I'm working on that," I mumbled, swirling a bite of pancake in a puddle of syrup. "Corporeality is harder than it looks. It takes practice." And concentration.

"Are you sure you're ready for school? We could give it another week." But he seemed to regret the words as soon as he'd said them. Another week off would mean another week of me sitting around the house doing nothing when I wasn't training as an extractor, and that's what was worrying him in the first place.

"I need to go. They all know today's the day."

"They" were my teachers, classmates, and the local television stations. I was big news—the girl who'd survived being stabbed by her own math teacher. My father had stopped answering the home phone, and we'd had to change my cell number when someone leaked it to the press. They all wanted to know what it was like to nearly die. To kill the man who'd tried to kill me. They wanted to know how I'd survived.

None of them could ever know the truth—that I hadn't survived. That was part of the deal—allowing me to live my afterlife like my murder had never happened. Protecting my secret meant keeping up with schoolwork and work-work, in addition to my new duties extracting souls from those who shouldn't have them.

"If anything goes wrong, I want you to call me," my father said, and I nodded. I wasn't going to tell him that if anything went wrong, I could blink out of school and into my own room before he could even get to his car in the parking lot at work. He knew that. He was just trying to help and to stay involved, and I loved him for it. For that, and for the pancakes, even if I had no real desire to eat them.

We both sipped our coffee, and I noticed that his appetite seemed to have disappeared, too. Then he set his mug down and picked up a strip of bacon. "You know, I've been thinking about this Friday…" He left the sentence hanging while he took a bite.

"What's this Friday?" I asked, and my father frowned.

"Your birthday, Kaylee."

For a moment, I could only blink at him, mentally denying the possibility, while I counted the days in my head. Time had lost all meaning over the past month. Tod said that was normal—something about absent circadian rhythms—but it didn't seem possible that I could have forgotten my own birthday.

"I'm turning seventeen…" I whispered.

Except that I wasn't. The anniversary of my birth would come and go, but I'd still be sixteen and eleven-twelfths. I'd be sixteen and eleven-twelfths forever—at least physically. I would always look too young to vote. Too young to drink. Too young to drive a rental car, should that urge ever strike.

And none of those limitations had ever seemed more pointless. What did it matter?

What did any of it matter, anymore?

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin Teen; Original edition (June 26, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0373210612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0373210619
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,365,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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All things considered, Kaylee Cavanaugh was pretty lucky. Sure, she died. But she got a second chance. And although she technically wasn't alive, at least she wasn't a reaper. She didn't have to take souls, just reclaim them.

Immortality, however, wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Sure, she could make herself invisible when she wanted to hang out with her boyfriend. No, she didn't have to sleep. No, she didn't have to eat unless she wanted to. No, she wouldn't age. And no, she didn't actually have to go to school. That was her choice.

But being invisible was easier than being corporeal - not ideal when trying to pretend to be normal at school. Not being able to sleep left long periods of time with little to do and no one to do it with. Not aging meant that nearly everyone she cared about would eventually be gone.

And being immortal didn't mean being invincible.

So when someone from Kaylee's past looks to make a deal, she must decide whether the risk of working with them is greater than the danger of facing down her enemies alone. Not a decision she ever thought she'd have to make. Not a decision she ever wanted to make. And not someone whose side she ever thought she'd have to choose. Especially when she knows they can't be trusted.

***

The sixth installment in the Soul Screamers series, Before I Wake is every bit as tension-filled, emotionally charged, intense, gripping and entertaining as its predecessor. With new dangers, the return of old enemies and even greater obstacles to overcome, this book is nerve-wracking, suspenseful, heartbreakingly sweet and sad and absolutely unputdownable.
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This has to be the best one yet, even thoug it's a roller coaster ride of emotions. I won't bore you with a plot summary as I know other reviewers are fond of doing that. I don't think anyone will guess the ending to this book because it's completely unexpected, but that's usually the way it should be in a novel like this. The main group of characters goes through so much, yet again, and just compounds the pain and emotional torture they've been through up to this point. I can't wait to read "With All My Soul", the final book in the series, to see how Kaylee triumphs over all the evil she's faced. Anyone who enjoyed the previous books in the series should definitely read this one because it's well worth it. You won't regret it!
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After escaping death for a second time--well, a permanent death--Kaylee feels lost. She doesn't know how to adjust to this afterlife where only strong emotions make her feel alive and the rest has ceases to have meaning. The only person that feels real to her is Tod. Kaylee lives her days only for the moments she gets to spend with him, the rest of the day she has to go to school. Who knew being dead didn't get you out of school? But Kaylee's life doesn't that that boring forever, and the consequences of her decisions will catch up to her. When all hell breaks loose (literally), Kaylee will have to pay for her choices. Only this time, her soul is not the only one in danger.

Rachel Vincent's Before I Wake, the most awaited sixth novel of the Soul Screamers series, is all that I hoped for and more!

I was terrified of this book. Yes, terrified. If I Die left us with a lovely happy ending, and I just knew that from then on only pain and suffering would come. Add to that Rachel Vincent's teasing statuses in Facebook about killing off people, important people, and I was shaking in my seat. But after reading it, I have to say that it wasn't so bad. Scratch that. It is that bad, with tons of heartache, people that die, and hell breaking loose but...Kaylee's courage keeps you going. It keeps you hoping for better things, and we get that.

In this book, we encounter a very different Kaylee. She snaps when pushed, feels nothing when left alone, and thinks that giving into her depression is so much better than fighting. Wait, what? Yep. Gone is our fierce heroine. She feels like things don't matter anymore because she's dead. But isn't that why she agreed to become an extractor because her family and friends mattered and she couldn't just leave them?
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First, let me say I love this series by Rachel Vincent! It certainly has some of the most interesting, most flawed characters in YA fiction, and the storyline is developing well with lots of action and excitement. This entry is another good one, but there are a couple of issues that kept me from giving it the full 5 stars...nothing major, but still things that bugged me. But mostly Vincent's writing is growing and this series is going to be so hard to give up when the next (and final!) novel is out.

What I Loved: I LOVE Tod. He is the single best character, with his wit constantly shining and his utter, complete devotion to Kaylee a true heartwarming relationship. The way he tries to protect Kaylee, the way he works with her and values her, all make him probably one of my favorite YA characters ever. Also, Vincent handles their decision to go physical in an adult, responsible way that shows how deeply they care for one another. I also love that Kaylee's relationship with Nash isn't just resolved so quickly and that we can feel his pain. I love that her dad is still a dad, regardless of her dead status. And speaking of that issue, I love how Vincent is portraying Kaylee's abrupt adjustment into the land of the dead: it's a learning process, with both benefits and problems, all of which are overwhelming. Kaylee's a great character herself, but she is a conflicted one. I also like the central problem with Avari: he's found a way around the Netherworld Rules, and he's just pure evil, and right now, no one's sure how to deal with him. Great story telling amid all the fighting (both the relationship kind and the physical kind). I also like that hard decisions have to be made and there are consequences for those choices.
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