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If I Should Die Before I Wake

If I Should Die Before I Wake

4.6 104
by Han Nolan

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Hilary hates Jews. As part of a neo-Nazi gang in her town, she's finally found a sense of belonging. But when she's critically injured in an accident, everything changes.
Somehow, in her mind, she has become Chana, a Jewish girl fighting for her own life in the ghettos and concentration camps of World War II.
Han Nolan offers powerful insight into one young


Hilary hates Jews. As part of a neo-Nazi gang in her town, she's finally found a sense of belonging. But when she's critically injured in an accident, everything changes.
Somehow, in her mind, she has become Chana, a Jewish girl fighting for her own life in the ghettos and concentration camps of World War II.
Han Nolan offers powerful insight into one young woman's survival through the Holocaust and another's journey out of hatred and self-loathing.
Reader's guide and an interview with the author included.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bold . . . deeply felt and often compelling."—Kirkus Reviews

"Brilliantly rendered."—Booklist


The ALAN Review - Jeffrey S. Kaplan
As I write, Schindler's List plays nearby and Florida's governor has just signed a bill requiring the study of the Holocaust and the topic of genocide to become regular fixtures of the secondary-school curriculum. It is ironic that I am asked to review If I Die Before I Wake, the first-person-singular story of a Neo-Nazi skinhead who becomes transformed into a caring and loving human being. Knocked into a coma by a motorcycle accident, Hilary, the Neo-Nazi initiate, lands in a Jewish hospital, where, moving in and out of consciousness, she travels through her dreams to Poland at the onset of World War II. There, in her mind's eye, she becomes, of all people, Chana, a young Jewish girl whose family has been sent by the Nazis to live in a Jewish ghetto. In Chana's horrifying world, death is an everyday occurrence and the next stop for most of its residents is Auschwitz. This is a good read, perfect to accompany a discussion of Schindler's List, and invaluable as a resource to understanding the incomprehensible.
Children's Literature
Can an alienated, Jew-hating, Neo-Nazi teenager have lived a previous life as a Polish Jewish girl in the Lodz ghetto during the Holocaust? Can a motorcycle accident which lands her comatose in a Jewish hospital be the vehicle for her tumbling through time repeatedly to relive that life while fighting for this one? Can her horrendous experiences of surviving but losing everything, including her family, and finally giving up her last food to another girl shake her out of the self-destructive life she has fashioned for herself here in the today world? This is an intriguing and touching story that weaves the terrible drama of the Nazis' destruction of an entire population together with the age-old belief in reincarnation and past lives. Originally published in 1994, it is now in its second soft cover edition and includes a "Chat Page" of questions to ponder as well as an interview with the author. An appealing and powerful story. 2003 (1994), Harcourt,
— Judy Chernak

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.90(w) x 6.94(h) x 0.80(d)
840L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

HAN NOLAN has won many awards for her teen fiction, including the National Book Award for Dancing on the Edge. She lives in New England.

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If I Should Die Before I Wake 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 104 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If I Should Die Before I Wake by Han Nolan, is a thriving novel about a teenage girl in a Neo-Nazi gang and her experiences she has as a little girl in Poland during the holocaust while she is in coma. In her gang, ¿the Great Warriors¿, Hilary absolutely hates all Jews and believes that her boyfriend and the gang are the only people who truly understand her. When Hilary becomes Chana and goes through all her experiences, she realizes that other people truly care about her. By the end of the novel, Hilary learns who she really is as a person and she learns to accept others. Once the accident occurs and Hilary is in coma, she must overcome her hatred of Jews and must learn to see who people are on the inside 'and not judge them based on their looks or ethnicity'. When she is Hilary, her life is devoted to the gang and all her actions are overlooked and controlled by ¿the Great Warriors¿. Her mother and father play no role in her life simply because she feels they don¿t care or understand her. When Hilary becomes Chana, a poor Jewish girl, her entire outlook on life changes and Chana and Hilary both learn that in order to get by in life and survive difficult situations, you have to know and understand who you are and be devoted to your family. From the death of Chana¿s father to a fire set by Hilary¿s boyfriend these events are what trigger Chana and Hilary to realize they can no longer keep on living the way they are used to and they must do what is right for themselves. In the beginning Hilary never believed her mother ever thought about her let alone she would stay with her in the hospital. This is what helps Hilary understand that her family does care and when her boyfriend visits and sets the Jewish hospital on fire leaving Hilary to die, that makes her realize she is above the gang and she has her own voice to finally stand up for what she believes in. Her life as Chana is evidence to Hilary that these horrific events were a reality and one must stay true to oneself in order to survive and not lose hope. The Jews lives to Hilary are worthless. She believes just because they are Jewish, that ethnicity is automatically below her in social status and she has the right to do or say whatever she feels about them. Through the duration of the book, while Hilary is Chana, she comes to understand the meaning of family, not to judge others based on their ¿racial look¿ or ethnicity, and she learns the value of friendship as well. Along with finding herself, Hilary is able to see what her life really has been about, and she now knows that how she has been treating Jews is morally wrong. If anyone is looking for a novel that goes back in time through the Holocaust and truly shows the horrors of what happened, I would strongly recommend reading this book. As you read the novel you truly feel as though you are the characters and are going through the same trauma and experiences as they are. This book is hard to put down and if anyone is interested in learning more about the Holocaust, or even about learning to accept yourself and others, this book should be right up your alley.
WW2-lover More than 1 year ago
If I Should Die Before I Wake is a great story! The book is very real and really gives you a feel for how it was like to be a Jew during WWII. The story really teaches you alot and you get an amazing grasp on the German concentration campsand how terrible they were. In the story you realize how much strength and determination it took to stay alive during these times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the best book i've read in a long time. Although it can be often very sad and gruesome, it was powerful and draws you in from the beginning. Also, I don't think it skips around too much, it was smooth to me. The best thing about it is how the main character, Chana, grows so much over the course of the war, and finally finds peace with God. Who knows, maybe this book will make you believe in God.
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
"If I Should Die Before I Wake" is about a teenage girl named Hilary who is part of a neo-Nazi gang in her school & completely hates Jews. When she gets into a motorcycle accident, she ends up in a Jewish hospital, & while sleeping & unconscious, she wakes up in the place of a teenage Jewish girl named Chana in the time of World War 2, who has lost her family & has been sent to Auschwitz for horrible slave labor. When Hilary wakes up, her views on Jewish people change, which changes herself from being a rude person to a good & generous person who has seen the world in an entirely different way. This book made me wonder, when the Holocaust was happening, if any of the Nazis (or even Hitler) got into an accident, became unconscious, & woke up in the place of a Jewish person & suffered the same horrible losses & unfair slave labor as they did, would their views on the entire situation change? Would Hitler himself call off the Holocaust, if he went through the same thing as Hilary? Or would they go on as unfeeling monsters, simply continuing to ruin the innocent Jewish peoples' lives? The same situation applies to today's society. Like how no one truly knows how it feels to be homeless. Or even at school, where you're the "ugly & unpopular" one, & everyone continues to make fun of you, completely ignorant of your feelings. If the same thing happened to us as it happened to Hilary, perhaps it would be good for all of us. If a rich & greedy person woke up in the place of a homeless person, or if a popular & rude person woke up in the place of an unpopular person. This book really spoke to me as a human being, & that was how it did so. It has inspired me to look at a situation in another person's eyes, & understand the way others feel, instead of being selfish & only thinking of my point of view. Because unlike Hilary, we won't be able to wake up in another person's shoes to be able to see the world in a way we should. So if you are looking for a fictional book that takes place in a period that's more than real, or if you want a book that inspires you like it inspired me, "If I Should Die Before I Wake" is an amazing book for both of those types, & it is also just a really great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this was a very good book. i am highly interested in the holocaust and how things really happened. this book not only gave me a lok on how things really happened, but an interesting twist on what happened.
Guest More than 1 year ago
but you'll definitely like it because it just makes you wanna keep reading more and more. i love how the author wrote the book, with hilary & chana showing both sides of their story. it's a really good read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
if i should die before i wake was a book about the holocaust and deciding to change before your life ends. it wasnt as good as i'd hoped for it to be - see the character hilary has nothing behind her - the author tells that the girl is BAD so so BAD but okay she should prove that a lil bit more than just telling about the neo-nazis and the meetings. but chana on the other hand is interesting but for people that know the holocaust - its information that you will never hear enough of - the ghetto, the train ride, the camps, the people - its the best part - the descriptive writing. but there was TOO MUCH of hilary, and frankly I DONT WANNA READ ABOUT HER - she's such a fake character - I didnt finish the book, my younger sister finished it and told me what it was about because i got bored - i read all the chana chapters and skipped the hilary ones... JUST JUDGE THE BOOK FOR YOURSELVES PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HAPPY READINGS =)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some of the events that took place in THIS book also took place in "Prisoner B-3087"!!! They are BOTH amazing books... The kind that you never want to put down and you can never end in the middle of a chapter
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I felt that I could really understand the holocoust more after reading this book. Since I have heared the same information on the holucoust from my teachers for years, it was a nice change to hear this story. It was beautifuly writen, and extreamly powerfull. I wish that my teachers could teach us about this tradgedy as detailed as this book did. It was a wonderful work of art. I really loved it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was not a good book!!! I was looking forward to it and now im dissapointed i wasted my money! This had no historical backround and was extremly hard to follow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this years ago. I ti son eof those stories that sticks with you forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book! It can tell you more about the Holocaust and how hard life was during the Holocaust for Jews. There were many sad parts that almost made me cry. The ending was just awesome! I loved the ending! (not gonna give any spoilers)
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing. The book is hard to follow at first but it is a very deeply moving book. The purchase was very well worth it.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hilary is part of a neo-Nazi gang in her town and hates Jews with a passion. However, one day she is seriously injured while riding on the back of a motorcycle driven by one of her fellow gang member. She is taken to a Jewish hospital and finds herself living a different life. Hilary has become Chana, a Jewish girl fighting for her life in the Holocaust. Chana and her family are taken from their home to a ghetto, and the people who survived the ghetto were sent to Auschwitz. This book tells the gripping story of how Chana-or Hilary- attempts to survive in a world of death. I absolutely loved this book! There was never a dull moment and it was a fast read. I have always found Holocaust books interesting and this one surely did not disappoint. It is hard to believe all the horrible situation that the main character is put through, but I love how the book shows what a difference a strong will in a person can make. I was also able to make several connections with Chana as she went through everything. It is very easy to believe that this book is really being told by a teenage girl. Since this book is an easy read, I would recommend it to preteen girls and girls in their early teenage years. However, it is a very interesting quick read for any teenage girl.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ivyliz More than 1 year ago
This book is excellent.From the first page it automatically drew me in. The change of the main characters back and forth was very interesting.If you are interested in the Holocaust like me, you will enjoy it very much because of the details and the characters in the story.Hilary is an aggressive individual that learns about the people of the Holocaust's life.Chana is a Jewish girl that was captured during the Holocaust.The events in this novel are very well written and will satisfy a reader.The only flaw I would say about this book is that towards the middle of the book, the story seems to drag a bit but don't worry because shortly it picks itself back up.I would definately recommend this book to adults and young adults.
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