Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver
Summary: 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.
I don’t know where to start with this review. This is a book I wish I would have read in high school. I feel like every girl needs this book. The popular ones, the nice ones, the mean ones, the losers… EVERY girl.
The plot is a mixture of Mean Girls and Groundhog Day. Sam lives the last day of her life as her popular self, dies, and then wakes up to find the same day repeating itself. She’s a teenager and she’s blissfully unaware that things matter – people, feelings, events, connections, etc. As the synopsis says, she untangles the mystery surrounding her death and discovers the true value of everything. At first, I wondered what could really happen in this book and I thought it would be predictable and unoriginal and one of those obvious books that teaches you a lesson. I felt like maybe it would be one of those books where I knew too much and it would just be mediocre. I was so wrong.
The most amazing thing about this book is how it made me feel. I couldn’t necessarily relate to the characters (but I did in many ways) and most of them fit a typical teen movie stereotype, but it was getting to know each of the characters on Sam’s repetitive journey that made the difference. It made me look at myself and wonder how I was to other people in high school and remember how they were to me. Everything just really hit me like a ton of bricks reading this book. I loved that it portrayed what it’s like to be in high school and what kind of things matter and what being cool really is and realizing how lame it all is in retrospect. It was able to show how small things turn into big things and vice versa and why people do the things they do.
The way the author weaved this story is also truly amazing. I loved the way she wrote and how she managed to convey so many things at once. She was able to give the story from Sam’s point of view (a teenager with a complete disregard for others) while also not making it excruciating for the reader. I didn’t feel like I was watching a stupid girl finally wake up and look around, but in some ways, I was. Sam was a complex person, like we all are. The way she described certain things floored me. I can’t praise the writing enough.
“As I head up from the gym it strikes me how strange people are. You can see them every day—you can think you know them—and then you find out you hardly know them at all. I feel exhilarated, kind of like I’m being spun around a whirlpool, circling closer and closer around the same people and the same events but seeing things from different angles.”
“Then again, I guess Izzy doesn’t care. That’s another thing that strikes me as funny: that my eight-year-old sister is braver than I am. She’s probably braver than most of the people at Thomas Jefferson. I wonder if that will ever change, if it will get beaten out of her.”
“Maybe I am like her, deep down. Maybe we all are: just one lunch period away from eating alone in the bathroom.”
I loved this book. But I also hated it because it made me feel terrible. It doesn’t shy away or fail to point out all the screwed up traits in people and it’s embarrassing to be able to relate to even one of these moments. It also doesn’t fail to capture the amazing moments and the great things about people, too. I almost dropped my review to 4 stars because of the way it ended, but I couldn’t take away a star. The book made me feel very strong emotions and made me ask myself tons of thought provoking questions and even though it wasn’t the most comfortable read, it really deserves the 5 star rating for that.
In the end, the book is one of those books that say something real about humanity. There’s a lesson and it’s heart wrenching, but it’s also gritty and jaw dropping. I definitely recommend it to others. It’s a book all girls should read, especially teenagers. I think it sparks some self reflection.