Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: October 25th 2010
Rating: A heart full of love

Before I Fall is the story of seventeen-year-old popular “mean girl” Samantha who starts living a single day over and over again.  I have probably read this book a dozen times. 

I bought it right away when it came out in 2010 and it has been a firm favorite of mine ever since.  

This is not only a great book it is also an important one.  I have probably given this book to more students over the years than any other.  The underlying message that every choice we make counts and that it is never too late to do the right thing is pretty essential to pick up on when you are in middle or high school.  I love YA but often with a few adjustments most YA novels could be adult novels.  Before I Fall is intrinsically YA. 

The plot and characterization all depend on being seventeen years old.

One thing that this book did extremely well is analyzed and use the constantly shifting power structures that develop in middle and high school. Popularity, athletic talent, and even things like humor become social currency and unfortunately, their worlds have a tendency to devolved sharply between the haves and the have-nots. Samantha, having been a have not, is constantly aware of this and this awareness drives her actions.

The characterization in this book is amazing.  Each character has depth.  Lauren Oliver does almost the impossible with Sam and wrote a thoroughly unlikeable girl with no interest in books who I grew to love.  This is both impressive and important because it is the reader’s identification and empathy for Sam that really makes this book stand apart from others.  I don’t know how she did it. I should have hated Sam.  Sam is every petty, shallow, and cruel girl that we all either were or knew in high school.  She is a personification of everything that makes a teenager awful.  And yet she is so much more.  She has the potential for change, forgiveness, depth and sensitivity.  She reminds us that we are all more than the sum of our surface parts.  She reminds us that all too often we are limited by ourselves. 

She reminds us that we all deserve a second chance.

This book definitely makes you think about yourself and the choices that you make. It also made me think about myself as a teenager.  I was never mean but I don’t know it that was because I had moral fortitude or simply because I was far too busy trying to be invisible. I guess like everyone else, I could have been a better person.

There is a sensitivity to the writing.  The story and the world are both incredibly nuanced.  Details matter.  Minor character matter.  Small choices cause huge changes. Everyone has their own story even if it isn’t fully explored in the book.  In the end, this book is heartbreaking but not without hope. 

If you are a fan of YA and somehow haven’t read this novel yet I enthusiastically recommend reading Before I Fall.

The Movie:

I haven’t seen the movie yet.  I am super excited about it.  Lauren Oliver wrote the screenplay herself (Is that true? I thought I read that somewhere but now I have to google it) and there has been a ton of good buzz.   I would have liked to go this weekend but we couldn’t find a showing in English.  This is what happens when you decided to move to China and I have a strict policy of only watching movies with their original voices.  Dubbing is evil. I guess I will have to wait.

From Goodreads:

With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I StayBefore I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—"Cupid Day"—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam 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 ever imagined.