Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review of Before I Fall

What if you only had 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.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver was listed here as one of my must-read books of 2011 and here as a book trailer I absolutely loved!

I had read a review on the Confessions of Suite 500 blog by literary agent Suzie Townsend that she was tempted to put this book down during the first chapter despite the stellar writing because main character Sam Kingston is not someone she would ever have been friends with in high school and I couldn't agree more. Suzie had been advised to persist past that chapter hurdle and told she wouldn't be disappointed and so I repeat those words of wisdom. Because once you get through that first chapter, you'll tear through all the rest!

Described as "Groundhog Day" meets "Mean Girls" this New York Times bestselling young adult novel creates a multi-layered story in rich prose that examines the relationships Sam has with both family and friends and the ways in which her choices affect those around her.

I loved Sam's evolution in this book and how as she changed, her relationships with those around her were forced to change. Oliver was able to repeat a day in the life of Sam Kingston that didn't feel laborious or too repetitive.

If anything the overly descriptive first chapter and not-quite-likable Sam only serves to ground us in how far she matures and how unselfish she becomes by the end (ie. one week's time or seven chances at reliving her last day alive).

We all know the Einstein theory that every action has an equal and opposite reaction and this book takes that theory and applies it to high school. In the close knit, small student body that is Thomas Jefferson High, it's impossible to completely untangle one's life from another. There are always intersections and before these recycled days, Sam has no idea of just how much she may have in common with some people and how much she's pretending with others.

Before I Fall excels in three main categories:

1. Quality prose: Oliver is able to be descriptive without going overboard on adjective. She thoroughly describes each scene and character so that we can envision them, and has all the right word play to create a tragic love story, a brave heroine, and a band of friends we sometimes hate but ultimately come to understand.

2. Perfect dialogue: Hands down Oliver nailed the dialogue of Sam and her friends. Their little quips and habits, their interplay and inside jokes were right on. It reminded me of high school and felt more real than perhaps any other characteristic in this novel.

3. Realistic themes: Oliver may have enlisted a cocky popular girl to narrate this book but it's not long before we learn about Sam's unpopular beginnings and the ways in which her clique have unfortunately used their social status to keep others down. Themes of bullying, suicide, and the lengths to which people go to stay on top or struggle to get out from the bottom of the social food chain are all examined.

My only qualms this this novel are so minimal they're barely worth mentioning. For starters, Sam and her friends seem to only listen to dated music from the 1990s which seems out of place since it's set in present day and Oliver has worked so hard to make everything else in the storyline believable.

Secondly, of Sam's friends, we have a strong and thorough idea of likable character Elody who is fun and forgiving and helps balance out mean queen bee Lindsay (who, if you watch Pretty Little Liars is the "Allison" to Sam's "Hanna") but Ally, another friend, is completely forgettable. Other than the fact she likes cows there was no other strong lasting impression she made nor did she help move the storyline forward. In my opinion, she could have been written off but even so, her presence isn't necessarily distracting nor does it denote my overall impression of the novel.

All and all, this is a great and quick read. It will make you consider how you've treated others, how your actions may have reactions associated with them, and consider how you might do--or re-do--your last day if you had another chance.

So what do you think; will you read this book or, if you have already, what did you think?


  1. I loved the book. Oddly, I felt like I could relate to her evolution as a person. Some of us in high school didn't need to die to figure out what we did impacted others. Great idea for a story. I am excited to see if they can pull off the movie.

  2. Yes, Fox 2000 has optioned the rights for a movie:

  3. Selma Gomez? That's not a good sign. That's not at all who I had in mind for the role of Sam. I pictured