Monday, September 12, 2011

Review: Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver
Samantha Kingston is pretty, popular, and having the time of her life. And then her friend's car crashes with her in the passenger seat. When she wakes up it's February 12th -- again. All in all, Sam lives her last day seven times as she tries to figure out why she died, if she can save herself, and what sort of person she wants to be remembered as -- what sort of person she wants to be, even if it's too late.

When this book came out years ago, it seemed like all of my blogger friends were reading and raving over it, but the idea of reading variations on the same day seven times seemed like a story doomed to redundancy and boring-ness. However, after reading Lauren Oliver's dystopian -- Delirium -- and seeing how beautiful her writing is, I had to read Before I Fall. And you guys. It wasn't perfection, but it was close. Oliver's writing is detail-heavy and absolutely beautiful. Sam Kingston, with the popular friends and the popular boyfriend and the perfect life, is at first not a very nice person. Her actions and words, especially her thoughts about others, grated on me that first day.

But then she died.

And what follows that is six days of Sam trying to fix things. Trying to save herself -- if not her life, then at least her reputation. She doesn't want to be remembered as a mean girl, which is what she fears she is. Sam's foursome of friends are at first the typical group of popular girls, but as each day -- each moment -- passes, it gets easier to see them for the complex people they really are. Some, I wanted so badly to hate. These were, in many ways, the worst type of high school students: powerful, selfish, and mean. But there are layers here that Sam, as she wakes up on February 12th again and again, delves into. Nobody is quite as uncomplicated as they seem, least of all Sam herself.

The plot of Sam's story hinges on not just her last day, but specifically the party her and her friends attend that night. The party she dies on the way home from. As she tries to prevent and understand the crash, she ends up understanding herself, her life, and the lives of those around her so much better. This book goes into breathtaking detail, illuminating different people, different events, in each repeat of the day. She sets out to right her wrongs and make herself a better person, wanting to be remembered well, and in doing this she learns just how deep and complex the connections in people's lives are. She sees how spontaneous, unthinking action can hurt others, how deeply people are woven together, and how much good and bad is carried in each one of us. Her friends are far from perfect, especially best friend and It girl, Lindsey, but they are rarely shown as the "mean girls" it's so easy to peg them as. Sam manages to face the awful things they've done, the horrible ways they've mistreated others, while also remembering that they are more complex than that. They are better than that. Living February 12th over and over again allows her to see the people around her in all of their complexities. The themes here (how we treat others, how we live, as well as the fact that we are all responsible for our own actions and decisions) are so incredibly well done that it's difficult for me to wrap my brain around them. The story is brilliant, the characters are so complexly imagined, and the themes are brilliant. Other books have attempted similar stories, or similar themes, but none have tackled them nearly as well. Before I Fall is a book that makes others pale in comparison. It's a page-turner, a tearjerker, a masterpiece, and a must-read.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I'm so glad you loved this one. It absolutely blew me away.