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.
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.