If I Die Tonight

"By the time you read this, I'll be dead," writes teenager Wade Reed on his mom's Facebook page at the start of Alison Gaylin's If I Die Tonight. Wade continues, apologizing to his mom and his younger brother: he never meant to hurt them but at 17, he believes he's already lived too long. The post says Wade is in an undisclosed location, and the pills he swallowed have started taking effect. No one would find him in time.

Cut to five days earlier. A kid at Wade's school is killed in a hit-and-run on a rainy night, while trying to help a woman being carjacked. The woman turns out to be faded pop star Aimee En, and the dead teen, Liam Miller, is declared a hero, resulting in added publicity and pressure for the carjacker to be found. As the story leads up to Wade's Facebook post, his brother Connor remembers Wade sneaking into Connor's room, dripping wet, late on the night of the crime. Then Wade asks him to dispose of a bag while making Connor promise not to look inside or tell anyone about it. Is Wade the carjacker and Liam's accidental killer?

With alternating viewpoints, Gaylin weaves a story that's gripping on multiple levels. She keeps readers on the hook with the mystery surrounding Liam's death, but also explores timely issues such as bullying and persecution in the court of public opinion. Each character is complex and achingly human, as real as people you know, in person or on Facebook. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd

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