If I Should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan is a fictional Holocaust novel that intertwines the lives of a present-day neo-Nazi girl, Hilary Burke, and of Chana Bergman, a Jewish girl residing in Nazi-occupied Poland. Hilary, lonely and full of hate, joined the Great Warriors, who, like her, believed in power through hate and the inferior Jewish race. Ironically, Hilary was brought to a Jewish hospital after becoming fatally injured from a motorcycle accident, the fault of her boyfriend, Brad, who also was a member of the Great Warriors. Bordering between life and death, she begins to experience memories that were not hers, but Chana Bergman’s. Within this alternate reality she learns love, loss, perseverance, and the importance of family.
An interesting attribute includes the development of Hilary’s character throughout the novel. As written in first person, the reader can see through Hilary’s perspective. She seems strong, indestructible, but as the book progresses, and Chana’s life begins to affect her, the reader is led to believe that through a past hurt, Hilary had built up a wall of hate around herself. Chana’s experiences begin to wear on that wall, and for the first time in many years, Hilary felt love, causing the destruction of what she had so carefully constructed. Thus revealing the vulnerable, lonely hurt trapped inside. This caused the reader sympathy for a character that had initially seemed arrogant and loathsome.
Throughout the story, imagery and foreshadowing are used to set a mood throughout both “halves” seen within. Imagery forces the reader to understand the seriousness of both situations throughout the book while causing the circumstances to become more realistic and genuine. Foreshadowing connects the two sections of the book together, acting as transitions, while at specific times, new facts describing Hilary’s past are given in order to tie her story together. Such as the cause of her hurt and the progression of such throughout her life.
This book was a fantastic read, intermixing present day prejudice with that from the past. It could be enjoyed by an audience of teenagers or adults, mostly because one must understand the seriousness that encircles the Holocaust. It is a fairly quick read and captivating throughout, to be enjoyed by those who are captivated by Holocaust stories, real, or in this case, fictional.