Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre/Pages: YA Fiction/480
Publisher: March 2, 2010; Harper Collins
Rating: 4 Bookmarks
Source: Purchased for my Kindle
Nat’s One-Sentence Synopsis: When popular high school student Samantha Kingston is ‘gifted’ with the chance to relive the last day of her life–over and over–she learns how her actions and words trigger life-changing consequences.
Have you ever read another blogger’s book review and had to get the book that instant? Yep, that’s what happened to me after reading a review of Before I Fall over at Rhapsody in Books a few weeks ago. I played at tracking down a copy at my local library, but it was well past closing time and the wait list for a copy was interminable. What’s a girl (already in her pjs) to do? I simply ordered it up for my Kindle, a dangerous and expensive habit that I can’t seem to break.
Within seconds, I was immersed in Lauren Oliver’s debut novel and take it from me–I work in a private high school–she nailed the social pressure, politics, and diction of teenagers. So many of the YA books I read don’t have the authentic quality that Before I Fall had.
Maybe some authors are too far removed from teenagers to know how they really talk or about the pressure they face, but my students can sniff out these ‘fake YA’ books in a minute. They constantly come to me for book recommendations and are only interested in ‘authentic books’, or so they tell me.
Before I Fall examines one day of Sam’s life and how the choices she and her friends have made over the course of their lives (depicted in flashbacks) come back to haunt them. With each reliving of the fateful Cupid Day, Sam makes changes that alter the course of her day but ultimately can’t change the outcome of the night.
My students would immediately recognize Sam for the dynamic character that she is–she slowly changes and evolves as a result of her experiences and choices. On the whole, her attitude, choices, and behavior are less than admirable, but she finally manages to get some perspective and recognizes how her actions impact others.
This novel has been compared to the 1993 film Groundhog Day–about an egotistical man who repeats the same day over and over until he gets it right–but it actually reminded me of a book I read as a pre-teen, The Ghosts of Departure Point by Eve Bunting. The book tells the story of a cheerleader named Vicki who is directly responsible for a car accident that sends a carload of her friends over Departure Point to their deaths. Vicki, now a ghost, spends the remainder of the novel trying to atone for her reckless act which led to the accident.
Before I Fall hooked me from page 1 and stayed up into the wee hours of the night reading it. I was engrossed in the novel and eager to see if Sam would finally manage to salvage the day and night. If you’re a fan of YA, I’d highly recommend this novel. But don’t just take my word for it–here are some review excerpts and links from some great book bloggers:
Rhapsody in Books: I was not expecting this: a page-turner that I couldn’t put down; a sophisticated plot unfolding like a flower to improve upon a boilerplate scaffold; a poignant journey that touched my heart; and a book that left me feeling both sad and happy.
Life With Books: With a gripping premise that lives up to its promise, Before I Fall is one of the few Young Adult books that I thought got it right. If you’re an older reader, this book will take you back to your own teenage years and you’ll find yourself hoping and praying that Sam figures things out. If you are a young adult (or have one in your life), my guess is you will find a lot of food for thought as Sam struggles to make sense of her world.
Reading is Bliss: This was the shortest 480 pages I have ever read. I couldn’t help but want to spend more time with Sam as she fumbled her way through what’s right and what’s wrong in life. Woven within the pages was the perfect blend of suspense, heartbreak, and little moments that really make you think about the meaning of life and of course little life lessons are thrown in along the way.
The Infinite Shelf: It’s true I approached Before I Fall thinking of Groundhog Day…but there is much more to this novel … In fact, the book is much more serious than humorous. Oliver managed to create a story that’s heartfelt and filled with a certain hope, too, while avoiding the over-the-top drama.