Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver
Original Publishing Date: October 2011
Obtained via: Amazon
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.
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.