Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publication Date: March 2, 2010
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 496 pages
Opening Sentence: “They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.”
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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: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.
Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
The concept of Before I Fall is one that was completely new to me before I started reading the book. If, after you died, you lived the day of your death over and over what would you do differently, the same, or not at all? Would you go on as normal? Maybe spend more time with your loved ones? Make a fool of yourself because it doesn’t matter? I haven’t the faintest idea what I would do, so it made the idea of reading a book about it all the more welcoming.
I’ll be the first person to tell you when I don’t like a book, so I had absolutely no problem expressing how unimpressed I was with Before I Fall when I first started reading. I almost abandoned the whole operation. I thought the writing was slow and cheesy. And what was with all the food fighting? French fries, ice cream, beer… and why were they such a big part of the narrative? I understand the beer scene, but really… who would get into an ice cream fight when they know they have three plus more hours to sit through school?
I don’t think those scenes played any particular purpose (again, except for the beer scene) in the grand scheme of things. The French fry and ice cream scenes were supposed to show some type of bonding between the characters, I get that, but it seemed more like adolescents being immature and, frankly, unrealistic. Mommy needed to come by and scold them for playing with their food.
It took me over one hundred pages to get invested in the story. In fact, I was sure to update Goodreads with how I was feeling.
As a whole, I can overlook the slow start and say that despite the pitfalls this novel was well worth the read. It got deeper as it went and even made me cry at a couple points. Oliver was great at showing the different forms of grief the main character, Sam, was going through following her death. Sure, she was still living in her normal, everyday life, but it’s the same day (Cupid day) every time with all the little details intact and fixed. That knowledge in itself can become miserable before adding in the fact that everything she does is ultimately in vain.
I can’t explain how afraid I was of the end. Instead of just reading the book and finding out how it ended I stressed about the end being terrible. My thought process was basically “If it ends this way I’ll call it a cop out and hate it. If it ends this way I’m going to be totally upset and unsatisfied.” I’m happy to announce that neither of those is true and I am completely satisfied with how things turned out. I wasn’t expecting parts of it, but I don’t think it could have been any other way. It’s a tragedy, but a good one.
Even if I didn’t like Before I Fall to begin with I’m rating it four stars, because it did pick up and morph into something more like the story I was expecting it to be. I’m certainly glad I didn’t stop reading even when I wanted to, because it proves itself a good book that’s well worth your time. The fact that it doesn’t exactly snatch you and pull you in from the get-go may be a problem for people like me and others who may not keep reading anyway, but I definitely urge anyone who hasn’t read the book to read it. It will get you eventually. I promise.