This book isn't the type I normally grab off the shelves because of my general preference to not read about depressing topics. But it seemed like everywhere I looked I read something good about Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.
Sam Kingston is an uber-popular Senior at Thomas Jefferson High School. February 12, Cupid Day, is her and her BFF's chance to flaunt what they got--until an accident ends Sam's life. Like Groundhog Day but full of teen angst, Sam wakes up over and over again on February 12, trying to set things right.
What's great about this book is that Lauren Oliver describes, in accurate detail, a day-in-the-life of a teenage girl. What's horrible about this book is that Lauren Oliver describes, in accurate detail, a day-in-the-life of a teenage girl.
The first fifty pages were kind of painful to read. Oliver's take on high school life was so on the money, that I found myself cringing as I spaced out to remember some of my high school moments. When I wasn't hitting my head against the wall trying to forget my adolescent mishaps, I was wincing at the characters' actions.
Sam and her friends are pretty callous and annoying. It was difficult to read about characters who I wanted to reach into the page and smack. But really, this is all a compliment to Oliver's skill as a story teller. She created flawed and believable young women who are desperately trying to divert attention from their own vulnerability.
And trust me, Junkies, after you get past that first day of Sam's last day on earth, the story gets really GOOD, squealing girls and all. Sam does not start off as a heroine, but as she struggles to make things right in one day, she gains the strength, nobility, and courage to rival the most kick-ass of leading ladies.
Before I Fall asks the questions: What would you do if today was your last day on earth? and If you could live one day over again, which day would it be?
But what I loved most about this book was how it played with the idea of fate, destiny, and predetermination. I loved watching how Sam's choices unraveled new paths and revealed different connections. The story explores the web that links us together and how cutting one thread can leave us feeling undone. Oliver did a great job of building up the tension in everyday scenes. She played with the butterfly effect and made me realize that we are all just one choice away from kissing our math teacher.
I also liked how there were no real bad guys in this book. Even Sam's best friend and her boyfriend, both of whom I wanted to strangle in the beginning, are just young people trying to figure it all out.
I'm curious to hear how readers currently in high school view this book, especially the beginning.