Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver; read in February, 2010.  ARC provided by Harper Teen at ALA Midwinter

Description from GoodReads:

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—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-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 had ever imagined.

I have to admit that before I started the book, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it through Before I Fall.  As Samantha Kingston is forced to relive – over and over – a day that originally ended with a fatal car crash, I grew worried that the repetition would bore me.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that Sam, fully aware of the do-over but not having any idea why it is happening, changed her decisions each day so no day ever plays out the same.  The author does the reader a favor by not feeling the need to remind the reader about the day’s details that never change, which helps keep the pace steady.

Sam is a very realistic character, sometimes so real that the reader might find her unpleasant and unlikable.  She is a member of the popular girls and together, they can be mean and judgemental.  She is very self-centered, but as she wakes to face the same day again and again, she begins to think about her actions and observe how others are affected by her.  Is she reliving this day to serve a purpose?  Is there something she needs to fix?

I grew more fond of Sam as the book came to a close, although I never fell in love with her, nor her friends.  The one person I came away liking was Kent, a classmate that Sam was friends with when she was younger but is now not cool enough for her crowd.  His charms are immediately evident.  When I closed the book at the end, I was more concerned with Kent’s future than any other character.

I think that Before I Fall will appeal to fans of If I Stay – it has the same “lingering between life and death” without a noticable involvement from God, angels, or any other power.  I personally like seeing these types of books that give young adult readers an opportunity to consider life’s choices, death, and the afterlife without relying on one religious viewpoint.

I have already purchased a copy for my high school library and look forward to recommending it to students.

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Filed under review, young adult lit

2 responses to “Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

  1. I liked this one a lot. I wasn’t crazy about the choices made on her final day, but it was very well-written. I still prefer If I Stay, but both of these make you think.

  2. I admit the first two days were didn’t carry enough differences for me that I was thinking I wasn’t going to like it either. But the last days had so many significant changes that it carried me oer the hump. In the end I thought it a fabulous book.

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