Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Middle Grade (Mar 2 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 006172680X
ISBN-13: 978-0061726804

What if you had only 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: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day 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.

When I first started reading Before I Fall it brought back memories of school, though I don't remember high school being that bad (yes, it's been awhile, so my vision may be slightly skewed.) Sam and her bestfriends, Lindsay, Elody and Ally rule the school. And they do it by fear - of their displeasure, of becoming social outcasts for any that "cross" them, of being uncool in their eyes. Actually, it seems that everyone else IS uncool compared to them - according to them. I wanted to wring their necks! These were the most rude, judgmental, opinionated, cruel girls.

As the story progresses, a little more of each girl is revealed, showing a bit about why they act the way they do. Personally, I don't find these reasons should condone the actions at all, but it's just all part of the story. What we see most is Sam's struggles with her own life, personality, attitudes, etc. Through each repeat of the day, Sam discovers things about people and makes attempts to change certain parts, trying to make things better, with only slightly different versions of the same ending.

For me, these trials and errors are hard to watch. But, then again, how would I have known to do any different? Being the reader gives you more power of observation and the opportunity to say, "Why did you do *that* instead of *this*?" Argh! I felt angry, sad, frustrated, even a little relieved that something good came out of all of Sam's hard work, yet maybe left with more questions than answers.

There are some lovely moments in the book as Sam recounts her childhood, with stunning imagery and feeling. It's a nice reminder of things we may have forgotten from our own childhood. A sunny day, a particular hiding spot we used to have; perhaps places and moments we should try harder to remember and embrace more readily, not take them for granted.

Before I Fall was a total page turner, I couldn't wait to see how everything resolved. And, boy, was I shocked. I envisioned so many different endings that when I finally finished, I wanted more...surely Sam's day could continue until the absolute optimal conclusion was reached, right? Nope. It ended where it ended. I give huge kudos to Lauren Oliver for drawing out conflicting emotions (from me, at least) with her writing and for staying true to her own vision.

So, as I pick up my rose-coloured glasses and put them on, I will make up my own (preferable) ending (where the entire world lives happily ever after - you can't blame a girl for trying) and patiently await Lauren Oliver's next book. She is definitely a writer to keep our eyes on!


InABox said...

Great review! You mentioned some things I hadn't read elsewhere. I can't wait to pick this up!

Jackie said...

Thank you! It took me 2 weeks + to write this review, lol. It invoked that much feeling in me! I hope you enjoy it :-)

Mel (He Followed Me Home) said...

Yes so true, the simple pleasures are something oftern overlooked! I loved that this book made you think for 2 weeks LOL

Jackie said...

Mel- Yes! I had a hard time putting my emotions into words, lol.

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

Sounds interesting. I didn't know this was going to be a series. Hmm. Sounds like you enjoyed the book. :) Great review!

Jackie said...

Melissa - No, it's not a series, I just really liked her writing and am hoping she'll have another book out at some point, lol.

Melissa (My World...in words and pages) said...

Ah, thank you! :)

Jackie said...


Christina T said...

Fantastic review! Very insightful. I can't wait to read this.

Jackie said...

Thanks, Christina! Sometimes it's hard to get the words right in a review without putting in spoilers (which I don't like doing :-) I hope you like it!

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