Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: 2010 by HarperTeen
What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.Instead, it turns out to be her last.Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
”They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.”
Lauren Oliver manages to take a clichéd plot conflict and make an amazingly original story out of it. Seriously. This was an incredible book.
Before I Fall is about a girl named Samantha (Sam) who is one of the popular girls at school, has a group of awesomely close friends, and has a super hot boyfriend. Then one night, after a crazy party, her friend Lindsay is driving and hits something which sends them off the road, killing the person in the passenger seat: Sam. After this, we get to hear her thoughts on her life and about this “in-between” stage that she’s in. Then without warning she’s back waking up to her little sister jumping on her bed. Just like on the day she died. Turns out, Sam has to live her last day over again seven times.
You know the saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone?” Well, that would very appropriately fit this story. Sam has spent her life, dying to be popular and respected, and now that she has that status, she seems to try and convince herself it’s a good thing. Even before her death, she had hesitations about treating certain people poorly. She did it though, because her friends were doing it and she didn’t think it was that wrong of her. She IS popular after all.
Throughout her narrative, we discover that Sam was a typical loser all throughout elementary school and middle school. She had a couple friends, ones she later alienated, but mostly she was made fun of. Then one day this popular girl Lindsay stands up for her and they become best friends.
Her and her group of friends are close, but not as close as it seems. They ignore the issues lurking beneath the surface, and just focus on the mundane parts of their friendship: boys, parties, and shopping. As Sam sees more and more the value of life, she tries to get her friends to open up and get past the secrets.
What I’m trying to show is that this book is really deep on so many levels that I’ve barely scratched the surface. This is one book you have to read for yourself. You will dwell on it for many days, I promise. It’s rough, but it’s good.
The one thing that bugged me about this book is that once Sam realizes she’s living through the same day again, she mentions that “it’s just like in the movie Groundhog Day” (not verbatim). My problem with this is that by saying that, we know Sam has seen Groundhog Day. Now how did the guy in that movie stop the cycle? By doing everything right and being nice. So WHY in the world didn’t she just try that right off the bat? This annoyance is really just in reference to the addition of it to the story. With that comment in there, you wonder about her intelligence. If it hadn’t been in there, I would have just known that she was acting each day due to “normal” human reactions.
I loved this story for what it showed about human behavior, peer pressure, and outside appearances. Go read it.
Content Warnings: Most everybody curses, drinks, and dwells on sex. (I guess, typical teenager interactions? I don’t know…) Some people smoke. Some descriptive kissing.
I know I said I would never label a book with an age range, but I would like to say this should probably be read by older teens, unless they’ve been exposed to other similar content before.