Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Posted March 6, 2013 by Stormy in Books / 10 Comments

Before I Fall

by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall

Original Publishing Date: October 2011
Length: 470
Obtained via: Amazon
Format: Hardback

Summary via Goodreads:

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: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.

The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times 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.

My Review:

The first thing I learned while reading Before I Fall? Lauren Oliver is an amazing writer. I fell in love with her writing style in Delirium, but had mixed thoughts about Pandemonium, so I had mixed thoughts about reading something more contemporary by Lauren Oliver, but her writing style spans genres. Lauren Oliver has this amazing way of saying the most beautiful things without her prose sounding overly flowering or like something that could never come from a teenager’s mouth. It’s unlike any other author’s writing that I can think of, which just makes it stand out.

Even though I flew through this book, I admit it was hard at times because of Samantha, the main character. She’s definitely one of her highschool’s “mean girls”, and like most people, I experienced my share of humiliation at the hands of popular girls in my high school as well, which made me want to dislike Samantha. Lauren Oliver made that hard, though. Samantha and her friends do some pretty awful things, but it’s not like they’re not just awful people. Along the way, we see the potential each of them has to be an amazing adult once they grow out of that “immature/popular” stage. Samantha and her friends genuinely care about each other, despite their flaws, and seek to protect one another. I was torn between wanting to hate them and not being able to.

The way the story was structured, over the course of seven days, worked really well. I thought I would tire of Samantha living the same day over and over, but enough changed each day to make it interesting. Each day ended a different way, and while certain events stayed the same throughout the book, there was enough variety to keep it from being boring. I enjoyed the latter half of the novel more than the first half; for the first couple of days that Samantha relives, she spends most of her time trying to figure out what’s going on. Realistic and understandable, but much less moving than days four through seven.

This book, to me, showcases all the best features that good young adult literature has to offer: great and realistic characterization of teenagers, even the ones that are mean, a good look at the fragile structure of a high school social ladder, and the exploration of identity and moving past mistakes. Samantha isn’t a saint by the end of the novel, by any means, but she really begins to explore herself and the person she is and who she wants to be. She also realizes that her actions have consequences, but not in a way that seems at all preachy or forced.

Final Impression: Going back to the days of high school is not exactly fun, but Before I Fall does a terrific job of really exploring a teenager’s identity. The premise of the book is perfect for the story that Lauren Oliver is trying to tell, and her writing is just absolutely stunning. 5/5 stars. 

You can find Before I Fall on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and the Book Depository.


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10 responses to “Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

  1. Samantha and her friends were such an interesting group of friends to me. In a lot of books and films where the popular people “rule the school,” they usually feature more fake friendships than real friendships. I feel that Samantha and her friends really cared about one another, which, like you, made me torn between disliking them and liking them. They could be so amazing to one another yet so horrible to everyone else.

    I liked Samantha, but I felt that she was very weak. I felt that she was the strongest of all of her friends, but she chose to be the weakest. I wanted her to have a big epiphany at the end, but I feel that it was fitting that she didn’t. I think this book can wake a lot of people up. It showed that it takes more than wanting to be a better person to make life better for others and for yourself. It showed that you have to BE a better person to to make life better for others and for yourself.

    I am new to the Lauren Oliver books, and I must say that she did a fantastic job! I cannot wait to read her other books!

    Great post!

  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. This book was the start of my love for Lauren Oliver’s books…such amazing writing style. I agree it was definitely hard to like Sam at the beginning but it was a real journey to watch her grow and learn to be a better person through to the end of the book. Great review!

    • Thanks for stopping by! I am in awe of Lauren Oliver’s writing style(and a little jealous!). I think after reading both this and Delirium, she’s one of those writers I’ll have faith in to write in any genre/about any subject.

  3. I agree with a lot of what you said. Oliver’s writing style is absolutely beautiful, and I was also impressed that she managed to make the same day repeating over remain interesting throughout the book. By the end, however, I was not really convinced Sam was an enormously better person. She kind of blew off her friends’ terrible behavior as something teens do that they would grow out of. That may be true, but it doesn’t make it less wrong, and Sam herself saw what their bullying had driven another girl to do. I would have hoped she would have taken it more seriously.

    • I definitely agree Sam lessened her friend’s behavior and didn’t take it seriously enough, but I think it was a pretty big leap from where she started. I would have liked to see her grow more, I thought her progression was pretty believable, though I agree on some level it was unsatisfactory. I got it for the writing and the story, but at least on a basic moral level I would have liked to see more effort from Sam.

  4. Renae @ Respiring Thoughts

    I’ve been really interested in this for a while. Dystopian fiction isn’t my top choice, but I’ve heard amazing things about Oliver’s prose, so this was the obvious choice. Ever since I discovered Courtney Summers, I’ve been totally into books about mean/unlikable girls in high school, and it seems like Samantha fits that mold pretty well. I also think the entire concept of reliving the same day over and over again is really intriguing.

    So, basically, I’m glad you liked this!

    • I am so jealous of Lauren Oliver’s prose. There are a lot of amazing writers in the world, and I wouldn’t say she’s the absolute best or my all-around favorite in every facet of writing, but in my opinion, her prose style cannot be beat. It isn’t flowery at all, but she has this ability to impart meaning into the most basic of words. I admit I haven’t read many books about mean girls, but after reading this one, I definitely plan on more. I’ve had Courtney Summers recommended to me frequently!

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