Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver



Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: March 2, 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: young adult contemporary romance, realistic fiction
Format/Source: hardcover, library
Status: standalone


Summary:

With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—"Cupid Day"—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

Note: This is actually an old review of mine. I read this book and reviewed it in 2012. Thought it was time to share.

Review:
Wow. It has been a long time since I read a book so very heart-breakingly beautiful. Usually I like very plot-driven novels, but the plot of Before I Fall is quite simple: in the teenage version of Groundhog Day, Sam relives her last day 7 times so she can figure out the best way to leave. Instead of the plot keeping me reading, I was drawn in by the emotion and the amazing relationships Oliver creates. I kept trying to put this book down, to read it another day (470 is a lot to read all in one stretch), but I found myself saying, "Just to the end of this section, just to the end of the day, just until my cd finishes, just until 1 AM, 2 AM, 3 AM."

One of the things that I like best about this novel is that Oliver offers a fairly realistic view of high school and the pressures of being a teenager. Do all teens party like the characters in Before I Fall? No, but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I like that she presents challenging material, doesn't condemn it or preach against it; instead, in a very subtle way (or sometimes not so subtle), describes the consequences (good and bad). I'm not just referring to Lindsay's tendency to drive recklessly, especially when drunk. The girls discuss the Butterfly Effect, and although they seem to take it lightly, Oliver uses this phenomenon to great effect in Sam's changing actions throughout the novel. It's easy to see how Juliet--and therefore Sam--is pushed to the edge (sometimes literally) and waits for something to keep pushing her in one direction or the other.

I think my one complaint is that physical descriptions of the characters were few and far between. I can tell this was deliberate as a couple characters are described in great detail, as well as the various settings. However, it would have been nice to know more about the main four girls instead of just Sam's good and bad points, Lindsay's blond hair and Elody's big boobs. I don't even remember anything about poor Ally. This is a small complaint, and it's really the only one I have. I could just see everything so perfectly, but there was fuzziness around the characters that don't have much in the way of description (especially considering their importance to the novel).

As Jay Asher declared, this is a novel to tear through. As you go with Sam on her 7-day exploration, you'll find yourself looking back over your own life. I did. This is not a preachy novel, but I found myself wanted to become a better person, to fix things in my life while I still can. After all, as far as I know, not everyone is given the opportunity to make their last day right.

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About the Author:
Lauren Oliver comes from a family of writers and so has always (mistakenly) believed that spending hours in front of the computer every day, mulling over the difference between “chortling” and “chuckling,” is normal. She has always been an avid reader.

She attended the University of Chicago, where she continued to be as impractical as possible by majoring in philosophy and literature. After college, she attended the MFA program at NYU and worked briefly as the world’s worst editorial assistant, and only marginally better assistant editor, at a major publishing house in New York. Her major career contributions during this time were flouting the corporate dress code at every possible turn and repeatedly breaking the printer. Before I Fall is her first published novel.

She is deeply grateful for the chance to continue writing, as she has never been particularly good at anything else.

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12 comments:

  1. This sounds fantastic, and so sad at the same time. I cannot imagine having to live 7 days of the same day in HS again. That would be a nightmare in it'self! Great review

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    1. I liked high school, but yeah, definitely can't imagine reliving the same day over and over and over again. Thanks for reading!

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  2. I didn't really like this book but I'm glad you did. Love the last lines of you rreview! :)

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    1. I'm sad you didn't love it, but I can understand it might not be for everyone. Maybe give the movie a shot? Thank you!

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  3. I kinda started reading this book back in high school but then decided not to finish it because the beginning didn't interest me much. I guess I'll give it a try once more after reading your review on the book.

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    1. Yes, give it another shot for sure, Lisa!

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  4. I really loved this book! I wish she would write a sequel showing the aftereffects of what happened...

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    1. Usually I'm all about sequels, but I think Sam's story ended in a good place. I do want to check out the movie though!

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  5. I am not a fan of this book, but I know I am in the minority. While the book was fine, the ending just DID NOT WORK for me.

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    1. Definitely understand. I'm usually all about the HEAs!

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  6. I wanted to like this book SO BAD. I think the whole recanting things over and over again is what made me put it down. :( Stellar review, though!

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    1. Thank you, Sab! With Groundhog Day books (or movies or tv episodes), the pace can get really slogged down if the scenes don't pick up fast enough. I tried listening to BIF on audio and couldn't finish.

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