Book Review: If I Die Tonight

Updated: Dec 22, 2021

Title: If I Die Tonight

Author: Alison Gaylin

Publisher: William Morrow

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Specs Spot

What's it about?

It's a night that will change the lives of the people of Havenkill, a Hudson Valley town not well known for it's excitement. But when Liam Miller is struck dead in the middle of the street during the wee hours of the morning and a has-been pop star claims the guy who highjacked her car is the same person who killed Liam, Havenkill becomes the talk of social media and the media at large!

But the media coverage is the least of the Wade Reed and his family's worries when the town, and the police department becomes sure that this outcast teen is the one who ran over beloved Liam. He claims it wasn't him, but then why isn't he talking? Doesn't he understand what all of this is doing to his little brother, Connor and his mother, Jackie? What l is he hiding?

Pearl, on the other hand, may be a cop, but she's not quit as easy to convince. There are just too many moving pieces and, even though Wade isn't talking much, many of the other people talking seem to be lying or just jumping to conclusions. How is she supposed to help find the person who is really guilty of taking Liam's life, and how many other people is she going to have arrest for other crimes along the way?

What were my favorites?

Favorite character: I had two. The first one was Connor because he was real, not that the others weren't but I felt his struggle more then most of the other characters. He was loyal but not naïve when so many other people mixed up in the craziness were, at the very least, in denial. Connor was young and ignorant at some times but he didn't ignore information in front of him and the fought with the information.

I also liked Pearl Maze, one of the police officers on the case. I liked that she was flawed, for sure, and running from her own demons but that she wasn't judgmental. She didn't feel like she was smarter then she was, in fact, sometimes, she gave her self too little credit for her insights, even when they were wrong. I liked that she followed where the evidence went but, even though the events leading to said investigation were hard and not pretty, she didn't lose her caring heart or worry more about paper work then solving the case with dignity and finding real, honest answers. She was strong and independent.

Least Favorite character: Bobby because he jumped to conclusions very easily. He was happy with pointing a finger and calling it a day, molding every piece of evidence fit his thoughts and suspicions but, even more, he was that guy. You know the type. First he says "that person done it!" then finds out he's wrong, decides it was someone else and starts saying things like, "I know it was this person all along!". And he's willing to do this every. single. time. he's wrong which I just find annoying.

Also, Bill, Connor and Wade's father. I absolutely just wanted to smack him on more then one occasion.

Favorite Part: I think I'm going to go with when Connor beats up his best friend, and then they talk later. There's just something so pure and innocent about it on some level, the loyalty and the love that goes into that fight.

Least Favorite Part: I'm going to go with my least favorite part that isn't a spoiler. The bullying. I'm glad that it was there because I felt like it brought up some important things to think about like how once you put something out there online, you can't just take it back. Even if you delete it, it may still do damage. It also showed how fast misinformation can spread, especially when people are looking for evidence against someone, even if there's no need for that. But to see how quickly people embraced the idea of who they thought people were, and how willing they were to go after anyone they thought was connected to him like Connor and his mom, was upsetting (as it should have been). The speed of the misinformation without any substance behind it was annoying and disheartening.

Favorite Quote: There's this part where a poem is shared, written by Liam and I not only liked the poem, I felt like it put into words some of the lesson that one could find in this story. That and, well, there's a lot of truth to it, too.

"Always be Kind"

By Liam Miller, Age 8

If you meet up with a grizzly

With really big claws

Or a shark in the ocean

Who looks just like Jaws

I a scary bank robber

Points a gun in your face

Or a bully says "you loser"

and makes you feel out of place

Don't be hurtful or mean

That will make you bad as them.

Be kind! Join the nice team!

Kindness wins in the end.

Other Thoughts?

While the case wasn't incredibly complex, the characters were complicated. In fact, the story was more about the characters and their navigation through this difficult, confusing times and, while it was not what I expected, I really enjoyed it. In fact, it drew me in. Part of that was due to bouncing between characters' points of view, allowing us to see through the eyes and hear the thoughts of Connor, Jackie, Amy and Pearl while, somehow, doing so smoothly without confusion from one person to the next. I have to admit, though, that I wondered on more then one occasion why Pearl had such a large part in the story telling. Sure, it allowed us to have an inside look into the investigation which was nice, but a lot of the really important stuff could have been done from a different perspective in other ways. It wasn't until the end when I realized that, in order for it to work out the way it did and for things to make as much sense as they did without taking away from the characters to focus more on the crime itself, we had to follow Pearl.

I was disappointed, though, with some of the unanswered questions left to be unanswered. I know that some of those questions I still have can be answered with something like, "Because that gave us and the characters information we needed. That's why it was as it was." But I still feel like it could have been done better, maybe even at some points, less obvious. I just would have been happier had there been no loose ends.

Bill, however, is the big exception. I feel like, while I totally hated him through most of the book, the direction his character took by the end didn't make a lot of sense (another loose end that was never tied up). It seemed sudden and just...weird. Maybe even just a conversation between him and someone explaining why the made the choices he had?

All in all, it was a pretty short and simple read. It was intriguing less for the "suspense" and "thriller" reasons (honestly, I wouldn't describe this is a book that had me on the edge of my seat) but because I was invested in the characters and how the situation played out for all of them. And, honestly, I see that as a win. I was invested, I was emotionally effected so, even if it wasn't nail-biting worthy it was a good book. I may not read it again but I would totally recommend it to others!

What I rate it:

I give this book a


out of

10 black hoodies

But that's just what I thought. What did you think? Did you love it? Did you like Bill's changes by the end of the story? Let us know below.

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