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Book Reviews
June 23, 2010 posted by Nikki

Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver

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.

Sam Kingston and her three besties – Elody, Ally, and Lindsay – epitomize the image of high school popularity in the 21st century. They’ve got rockin bods, bitchy attitudes to match, and of course, the cutest boys falling all over them. Those at Thomas Jefferson High that don’t worship these four femmes fear them.

When the narrative begins, Cupid Day is in full swing at Thomas Jefferson High School. The girls have their sexy, far too revealing outfits on as they parade from class to class, collecting roses from friends, admirers, boyfriends, and boys in general. To the casual observer, this particular Friday looks like any regular Friday, but what said casual observers don’t know is that today is the day – Sam is spending the night at her boyfriend’s house with the intention of losing the big it. But things don’t go according to plan. Rob and Sam agree to meet at a party first and both of them end up arriving completely and totally wasted. In what seems like the blink of an eye, things go from bad to worse, and before Sam even realizes what’s going on, she’s collecting her friends, leaving the party without her boyfriend, and getting in a car with a drunk driver. Not surprisingly, they crash, and Sam dies.

That’s not where the story ends, though. Like the teen version of Groundhog Day, Sam wakes up and gets the chance to re-live that day seven times over. She gets the chance to take a long hard look at herself, the choices she makes, and the way she treats those around her. If only she’d known earlier, if only she’d been less concerned with her popularity, maybe she would have seen the irreversible damage that herself and her girlfriends were doing to those around them.

Maybe, but maybe not, too.

It took me a good long while to really get into this story. I picked it up and put it down a few times before finally resigning myself to the fact that I had to finish it, and I forced myself to sit and read it. Let me be very clear about this, though – my lack of personal investment in Sam’s story was simply because I couldn’t bring myself to like her. I found her vanity, her lack of respect, and the way she used her popularity to makes those around her feel horrible about themselves exceptionally unattractive. I was unable to sympathize with her quest for redemption simply because she’d  been such a nasty individual right up till the moment she actually died. I understand that we’re supposed to identify with the wrongs she tries to right, but by the time she actually started to learn from her mistakes, it was too late for me. I already hated her too much.

Having said that, I found Lauren Oliver’s prose utterly engaging, and if I’m honest, her writing was the real reason that I continued to pick Before I Fall up, again and again. The imagery she used matched her character’s psyche completely, and I actually believed I was listening to Sam tell the story, rather than Oliver herself.

What I did love about this story, though, is the indirect, but blindingly obvious way in which the narrative highlights the disastrous consequences of bullying. No fingers are actually pointed, and no conclusions are comprehensively drawn, but the message is definitely there: the way you treat those around you can scar them in ways you can’t even conceive. Think before you act, speak, live.

This debut author is outstandingly talented and I can’t wait to see what she produces next.

Rating:: ★★★½☆

Pages: 472

Publication: 2010 – Available now.

Teaser Quote: I still haven’t moved. I’m pressed up against the wall, penned in by people, paralyzed by how wrong everything is.

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20 Comments

  • This book has been one of my favorite reads of the year so far, but you’re right–Sam is an extremely difficult character to like. The writing is just so good!

  • hahahahahaha Meredith, check out the avatar next to your post! It looks like a unicorn/loveheart/crab wearing a g-string!

  • um I believe that would be spam! HA!

    Thanks for the review Nikki. This book sounds intriguing, but I’m having doubts on reading it because you said you had a hard time identifying with the main character. If I can’t identify with them, then I find the story to be flat for me. I may still give it a try though.

  • Just because I didn’t identify with her, doesn’t mean others wont.

    For nothing else, its worth reading because of the writing.

  • Yes, but I trust your judgment! I said I’d still give it a try though…

  • hey great to see that you are back into the YAREADS mood. g

  • this is probably the best book i read this year, probably my entire hgih schol years so far– i loved it.

  • This book was an amazing read!! I loved how everything fell in to place in the end! But I have to admit, it was kind of a tear jerker at times. I would reccomend this book to all!!

  • OMG! in class we have to write reports on the books that we choose to read outside of class and I have changed books three times this week. but I like Sam, I don’t know why, but I do. I think she already realizes her mistakes but she is too afraid to show it. The boy at the party telling her off is right, she does know. I have only read 89 pages and It is my favorite book as of tonight

  • Alright well i have to do an english book report and jus found out this info today, im halfway through this book and im now deciding im jus gunna do a report on it :) I can agree with you to an extent, i didnt like sam towards the beginning but the more i got into the story the more i saw her changing, for the better of course. She starts to understand what all she has the chance of losing. Her friends, Her little sister who she wants to see grow up, her family. She starts to see all the mistakes shes made and trys to correct them with each day that passes. Though im not finished with this book yet ( I think im about halfway through ) This book has been pretty good soo far. It shows you what to think about life. My favorite line of the book ( which i will put probably on the cover of the report(= ) Was probably the line that was often repeated periodically throughout the book. “Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around in it, let it slide like coins through your fingers. So much time you can waste it.
    But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”
    So i personally think this book is worth reading but thats jus me<3
    With Love, M n'M <x3

  • i actually did like sam at the end because she realized how much she loved kent and her family and friends and how bad she treated people and she changed

  • This book BY FAR is the best book i’ve read in my life. I just finished it and I had to share my thoughts somehow. It’s…undescribable beauty. I think the huge moral is that you can’t just go about life just doing the everyday routine, you have to notice the little things in life that make it really count. Sam realized she was being a bitch, so she changed. I’m glad too. at the beginning I actually sort of hated Sam, thinking she was better than everyone else and treating people like shit. But as the story went on, I loved how she changed. I disagree with what she said about her needing to change. I think the person she was, which she claimed a “horseback riding loser” was a fantastic person. The “new” her, think about it. Really only her 4 friends and her family truly liked her. I think she should of let people like Juliet and Kent drag her back down. More people would have liked her that way. But I loved who she became. I absolutely love this book and Lauren Oliver is a genius. Pay attention to the little things in life, because as the book says, you never really know.

  • The best book ever!!! Dont trash it just because you dont like the main character, thats wat makes the book interesting! Terrible review, i think you should rewrite it with a positive attitude.

  • i really liked this book!!!!! it was awesome and i couldn’t put it down :)

  • i read this book last week and i thought it was an amazing read and beautifuly written

  • Love this book! I gave the book 3 stars. I think that the telling of the same day over and over again got a little boring at first. I thought I was going to keep reading the same dialog and everything. Then of course Sam figured out she could change things and the book became more interesting. I do think this book was great in maybe teaching young adults some lessons… like how to treat one another. I like that it brings up the topic of teen suicides too.

  • I loved this book not so much for Sam but for the character Juliet. While I can slightly relate with Sam in the fact that I regret some of my choices, Juliet resonates with me. Her suicide and the way Sams sacrifice breaks the cycle really hit me. The ending was my favorite. While I was secretly hoping that Sam would get back up and live happily ever after with Kent, her death made me think. The worst part of reliving your last day over and over again is that at the end of the night, you’re still dead.

  • I really liked it. It was very ‘Mean Girls’ and Sam was a total cow, but she was just young, stupid and vain…only realising it too late. She was just lucky that she got to right her wrongs and take in the simple beauty that her life held.

    Great book.

  • can someone please identify the protagonist and antagonist in before i fall !!

  • Hey there, You have done a fantastic job. I will definitely digg it and in my view recommend to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

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