Wednesday, March 7, 2018

If I Die Tonight

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin
HarperCollins: 3/6/18
eBook review copy; 384 pages
ISBN-13: 9780062641090

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin is a highly recommended novel of psychological suspense.

Late one night in the town of Havenkill, a washed up 80's pop star, Aimee En, stumbles into the police station claiming that she was the victim of a carjacking. She claims that a teenage boy stole her car and then ran over another teen boy who tried to help her. Liam Miller, the high school football star who tried to help, is hospitalized and fighting for his life. Wade Reed is a school outcast and the number one suspect. As Liam obtains cult-like status, the rumors about Wade increase.

Everything doesn't quite add up, however, and it might not be exactly what it seems to be. The police have some concerns about Aimee En's version of events. There are also questions about Liam and his friends, in spite of the fact that the teenage social-media-finger-pointing-and-shaming-storm is in full swing and after Wade. The story unfold between the viewpoints of multiple characters, including police officer Pearl Maze, Wade's mother Jackie, his younger brother Connor, and Aimee En.

If I Die Tonight opens with a Facebook message from Wade saying that he will be dead by the time people read the message. This sets the tone for the story, since you know that the end result will be this message. The overriding question is, though, is Wade guilty? He's not talking and not defending himself. He was out of the house, smoking, and wandering who knows where that night, but why were the other boys also out in the wee hours of the morning? Why would Aimee be driving around on a cold night with her car window open, and was that alcohol Officer Maze smelled on her breath?

The writing is great and the characters are well done in this character-driven drama. I especially liked the thoughtfulness and logic from Officer Pearl Maze. Jackie was fiercely protective of her boys and this was clearly well-established and depicted realistically. The fire-storm of teens on social media jumping to erroneous conclusions, overstating the facts, following the crowd, making a deity out of Liam, and in general being all emotions with little logic was perfectly captured. And it's not just teens who can be illogical and reactive in this small town.

The plot was relatively fast-paced after the initial set up. Gaylin carefully reveals more clues and information as the story continues and works its way through several contemporary problems and social issues. Astute readers might be able to guess where it is going, but the journey is worth reaching the final conclusion.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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