I was recommended Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver on twitter well before it was released. I immediately trotted off to Amazon to check it out and fell in love with 1) the cover (obviously) and 2) the premise. I was fortunate enough to find it at my local Barnes & Noble last Thursday (since it technically comes out today) and couldn’t put it down.
Before I Fall tells the story of Samantha Kingston, whose life couldn’t be more amazing – she’s popular, has great friends, is dating a hot guy, and is about to have sex for the first time ever – until one night, one party changes everything for her. An accident – tragic and poignantly written – takes Sam’s life. Or so she thinks. When she wakes up the next morning, it’s like the day has never happened. The rest of the book is a heartbreaking version of Groundhog Day that will stick with you long after you’re done reading.
When I first started reading, I wasn’t sold right away. Sam is one of “those” girls – popular, self-centered, and pretty much a sheep. She and her friends are callous, pick on kids less popular than they are, think they’re better than everyone else, and generally do things because everyone else is doing them, not because they want to. Sam is willing to sleep with her boyfriend, not because she loves him but because she doesn’t want to be the last to do it.
It was this original dislike that ultimately drew me in to the novel. The characters are written pitch perfect for high school girls (and guys). Oliver’s characters don’t seem like they should be graduating college instead of high school, and they don’t seem like freshman either. It was a good balance between smart kids from good families at a god school and typical high school lack of experience.
The thing that makes Before I Fall so amazing though, is that Sam grows and changes without becoming perfect. You watch her try on all of these different versions of herself. She becomes a better person and sometimes a worse person, always mirroring how much hope she clings to when she wakes up for that particular version of her last day. She realizes these mistakes she’s mad and her friends have made, but she doesn’t turn her back on the people she cares about. My favorite thing about Sam is that she doesn’t abandon her friends for being “bad” people; instead, she starts to realize and recognize things in them that their former friend code had demanded she ignore and never bring up.
It’s hard for me to review this novel without spoiling it, particularly because several of the things that I am still a little unsure about rotate around the ending. In the end, though, I loved it because of the fact that I was left unsure. Before I Fall makes you think, it makes you contemplate the very nature of the life you’re living and the tiny details you think are so meaningless but can mean so much to someone else. It’s a beautiful novel and I highly recommend it.
I’m going to talk about the ending in the comments, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, stay out of there!