cover image If I Should Die Before I Wake

If I Should Die Before I Wake

Han Nolan. Harcourt Children's Books, $16.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-15-238040-3

Few novels can match this effort for its stupefying lack of taste. Teenager Hilary, who has never recovered from the long-ago death of her father and from her Bible-thumping mother's temporary abandonment of her, lies in a coma, the victim of her own adventures with her neo-Nazi pals. Suddenly she ``slips'' into another life--that of a Jewish girl in Poland at the beginning of the Nazi occupation. It turns out that she is sharing the memories of her hospital roommate, whose telepathic communications eventually bring about Hilary's salvation. Gratuitously lurid subplots involve teenage American neo-Nazi depredations and the torture of Hilary's young Jewish neighbor; the Holocaust flashbacks feature a psychic grandmother. Passages about Nazi ghettos and concentration camps seem cobbled together from survivors' memoirs (noticeably, Kitty Hart's several autobiographies and Fania Fenelon's Playing for Time ), while the overall conceit owes a major debt to Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic. Any hope that the author will redeem this misbegotten first novel is quickly quashed by her unrelievedly airless prose. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)