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Kindle Edition eBooks Details
  • 02/2020
  • 978-1-7333290-1-9 B07Z48BHH4
  • 212 pages
  • $.99
Michael J. Bowler
I Know When You're Going To Die
Leonardo Cantrell is a painfully shy sixteen-year-old who cannot look people in the eye. One night while he’s volunteering at a homeless shelter, an old man forces eye contact and gives Leo the power to see Death. His best, and only, friend—J.C. Rivera—thinks this new power is cool until Leo accidentally looks into J.C.’s eyes and “sees” his murder, a murder that will occur in less than two weeks. Stunned and shaken, the two boys sift through clues in Leo’s “vision” in a desperate effort to find the killer and stop him before he can strike. Aided by feisty new-girl-at-school, Laura, the boys uncover evidence suggesting the identity of the murderer. However, their plan to trap the would-be killer goes horribly awry and reveals a truth that could kill them all.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 8 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 7.75 out of 10


Plot: Bowler's premise finds good-hearted, super-rich teenage Leonardo gifted or cursed by a dying homeless man with the power to see when someone is going to die just by looking into their eyes. When Leonardo learns that his best friend, J.C., will be murdered, Leonardo and friends entertainingly attempt to solve the murder preemptively, running afoul of bullies and a principal in the process and discovering some surprising truths about who they all are. The set-up is strong, though I Know When You're Going To Die works in surprisingly few variations on its supernatural hook, settling in as a murder mystery rather than a horror novel about what it's like to be burdened with terrible knowledge.

Prose/Style: Bowler's prose is crisp, inviting, breezy, and propulsive, always moving his story forward and only occasionally getting bogged down in unnecessary detail, as in a scene set in a high school boiler room that offers more information about boilers than readers are likely to want. The dialogue among the trio of friends who power the narrative is likable and often amusing, if occasionally dated. Their frequent confrontations with a school bully named Chet, however, have a strained and repetitive quality, as the scenes play out those in teen stories for decades. In this case, the bully eventually is revealed to be performing his role to cover up his true self, but that doesn't make the earlier scenes more compelling the first time readers encounter them.

Originality: The wealthy L.A. setting and sunny noir tone of I Know You're Going to Die suggests the TV series Veronica Mars, and the characterizations, especially of the bullies, echo many other teen entertainment narratives. The friendships feel fresh and vital, though, and this story's particular twists are its own.

Character Development: Despite the horrific promise of its premise, the novel quickly settles into a teen mystery story, devoting few pages or scenes to the experience of walking through life with the ability to glimpse the truth of people's mortality. Leonardo is presented as so deep-down decent that he's never tempted to misuse this power out of spite, which makes him a somewhat flat protagonist. Meanwhile, Leonardo's pitiless thoughts about his mother's work as a Hollywood executive, her plastic surgery, and his belief that she only enrolled him in gymnastics to "have something to brag about" feel surprisingly sour in a book that's otherwise committed to empathy.

Date Submitted: April 02, 2020

Ann-Marie Reynolds, Readers' Favorite


I Know When You're Going To Die by Michael J Bowler is a fabulous story with an incredibly unique plot. Written in first-person, from Leo’s point-of-view, the story grabs hold of you straight away. The story centers on the main protagonist, his friends, and enemies, all of whom are exceptionally well-developed. The action is constant, with never a dull moment or any dead spots, and there are plenty of twists and turns, especially the ending. There are several threads running through this story – rich, so-called privileged kids who aren’t quite as privileged as you might think, bullying, friendship, and perhaps the overwhelming thread is that people aren’t always who you think they are and we should never take anyone at face value. This is an excellent story, adults young and older will enjoy it – I did and I look forward to reading more from Michael J Bowler.

Diane Donovan, Donovan's Bookshelf


Teen Leonardo is terribly shy, but this doesn't prevent him from volunteering at a homeless shelter and helping others. When an old man forces eye contact and passes on the power of being able to see another's death, Leonardo's life changes.

Life changes yet again when he sees his best friend's future murder and the two decide to defy and change what seems like destiny. They are joined by feisty new girl Laura. 

As the friends sift through the few clues offered in the vision to try to locate to stop a future murderer, readers are treated to a fine blend of psychological growth and investigative prowess which tests the abilities of the three teens. 

Laura adds an extra, critical dimension to the investigation by providing insights that test the boys' perceptions and ideas: " one’s gonna purge your house. This is just one guy who’s after you.” Everyone’s quiet for a moment, and then Laura asks, “How do you know that for sure?” “I saw it in his eyes, remember?” She chews her lower lip. “You saw one guy doing the killing,” she reminds me. “Doesn’t mean others aren’t involved.” 

Leo finds his easy camaraderie with his best friend is changed by his new ability, but in the course of shared adversity and purpose, it slowly begins to return; albeit in a different form. 

From secret passages in old houses to new relationships which change old friendships and Leonardo's own vision of himself as an undesirable "town loser" which is changed in the course of their efforts, teens will relish the realistic characters and involving action that keeps readers on their toes with a blend of satisfying action and psychological introspection. 

The characters are well-drawn and nicely balance the intrigue, offering many interpersonal insights and moments that will teach young readers about the undercurrents of relationships and their changes. 

I Know When You’re Going To Die is a riveting story because of this marriage between psychological depth and a pre-murder investigation, featuring engrossing twists and turns right up to its unexpected conclusion which embraces hard decisions and new opportunities. 

LoveToRead, age 14,

I Know When You're Going to Die by Michael J. Bowler is an amazingly written book full of suspense, friendship, and murder. This genre is my favorite, so I loved the book. The characters were easy to relate to with some things but not others. I loved the friendship J.C. had with his two best friends, and I liked how his enemy was always in the way. This book had so many details, which made it fun to read. I definitely recommend I Know When You're Going to Die to teens because there are some graphic details, but besides that and a little bit of language, the book is AMAZING!  

nictaf, age 17,


Michael J. Bowler's sci-fi-esque thriller not only entertains, but it also teaches a lesson at the same time. It portrays racism in school while also demonstrating that being rich doesn't always mean you can have everything you want. Even though Leo's ability to predict death is fictional, the entire book just feels real in a way many books don't. You learn that not everyone is who they seem to be on the surface and that you shouldn't immediately judge people based on their outward cover. The book flows seamlessly from one chapter to the next and leaves you feeling as if you were right alongside Leo and his friends. I recommend this book for ages 10 and up.

Red City Review

The concepts of predestination, of being able to see and affect the future, of having a unique glimpse into the workings of life and death, all pervade the narrative of I Know When You’re Going to Die by Michael J. Bowler. The novel opens on a young man, Leo Cantrell, who is painfully introverted and reserved, serving his local LA homeless population at a mission shelter. He is only sixteen, but he already possesses wisdom, kindness, and compassion beyond his years. He frequents the homeless shelter with such regularity that he knows everyone, and everyone knows him. There’s one man in particular, though, who catches his eye one fateful day. He stares deeply into his soul, and the man endows him with a remarkable gift: the ability to see exactly when and how others will die when he looks into their eyes. The man tells him, “I gave you a great gift, boy. Or maybe a curse.” And for the remainder of the novel, Leo explores whether his newfound ability truly is a gift or a horrible curse. His entire world turns upside down when he’s forced to look into his best friend J.C.’s eyes, and he sees his brutal murder only two weeks in the future. It’s a race against the clock for them to try to figure out how to bend the rules of predestination, prevent the murder from happening, and identify the would-be killer. With the help of the new girl at their high school, Laura, J.C. and Leo attempt the nearly impossible and defy fate. Will their attempts be thwarted? Will they be able to ensnare the potential murderer? Only time will tell.

Because I Know When You’re Going to Die is written in the first-person, Leo’s perspective, the reader enjoys a deep introspective look into his psyche as he processes the implications and repercussions of the ability he didn’t ask for, but nonetheless has. It’s an intimate way to tell such a heart-pounding tale that centers on the ideas of fate, decency, and humanity. Leo grapples with what is right, with what it means to have the power to look into someone’s eyes and see their death. He struggles with whether or not to warn them. Would he want to know, were he in someone else’s shoes? When it comes to his closest friend in the world, though, the choice is clear, and that choice informs and drives the remainder of the narrative into complex and interesting places heretofore unimagined by other novels of the same genre. Death is an inevitability, but this coming-of-age YA novel explores the very real lengths to which we will go to preserve love, life, and all that is precious within those concepts. Beyond the scope of the narrative, the language of I Know When You’re Going to Die captivates and enthralls the reader to the very end. It’s the kind of literary style that gets wonderfully stuck in your head and entreats you to keep reading well past the time you told yourself you would stop.

Kindle Edition eBooks Details
  • 02/2020
  • 978-1-7333290-1-9 B07Z48BHH4
  • 212 pages
  • $.99