Retro Reads: Before I Fall
Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher/Year: HarperCollns, 2010
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Purchased (Barnes and Nobel)
Date Read: Summer 2010
Original Review (Summer 2010)
An interesting concept, it definitely kept me reading to find out what Sam would do each day and how she would end the cycle. Was surprised by the ending, but found it appropriate and thought it was well done.
Samantha Kingston is your typical popular high school girl. She’s got the clothes, the friends, the car, and the boyfriend. She can be a little mean to people and self-absorbed. And then, one day, she dies in a car accident. However, instead of just dying and ceasing to exist, Samantha is thrust into a Groundhog Day-esque situation, repeating that last day of her life over and over. She’s not quite sure why this happened or what to do with her situation — does she try to escape death? Prevent it? Avoid it? Or is there something more she needs to figure out before she can take the next step?
I can’t believe it’s only been two and a half years since I read this book. It feel like EONS ago, since it was one of the last books I read before starting this blog. Maybe it’s even one of the ones that inspired me to start blogging. After all, what do you do when you read a book that makes you think, that changes you just a little bit, and you have no one to talk to about it?! That’s how this book made me feel. I wanted to talk to someone. Books about death inspire that in me, since they all have different takes on the situation. Compare it to Before I Die by Jenny Downham or If I Stay by Gayle Foreman (or even The Lovely Bones) in that respect. Due to the conceit of reliving same day over and over, though, this story is longer than either of those and takes a different approach.
Each day reveals complexity in Samantha’s life, which I appreciated. It would have been easy to pin-point her as a mean girl at the beginning, but even mean girls have souls. They aren’t 100% mean. They aren’t exactly “victims” of high school culture, but Samantha exemplifies how there is always more to the story than what meets the eye. Samantha is pretty unlikable for the first 3/4 of the book or so, but eventually it doesn’t matter if you like her or not. She actually became a sympathetic character, and the ending absolutely blew me away. I don’t remember many of the details of the story, but that ending is clear as day in my brain — the visual, the sounds, the emotions. Isn’t that the mark of a good book?
“Time doesn’t matter…certain moments go on forever.”
FINAL GRADE: B Good book, enjoyable read. It loses a star for being a little bit long in places, and for my initial frustration with Sam’s character. However, I recommend it to anyone who likes edgier contemporary YA. Hold up — is this even contemporary? It feels like contemporary, even though there is a sort of “supernatural” element with the repeating day. Yes. Contemporary. Anyway, my middle school students loved it and high schoolers would, too. And if you like books that make you cry, this is the book for you. I can’t believe this is Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, since she’s such a huge author now (the Delirium trilogy is largely responsible for that!) It’s amazing what three years can do, huh?
How do you feel about books about death? Which is your favorite book on the topic?