What if you only had 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: looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.
The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times 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.
I was hesitant to read Before I Fall due to the premise involving death and my tendency to stay away from anything that makes me sad. (Yes, I know I'm a wimp). But, I was impressed with Lauren Oliver's Delirium, another novel I didn't expect to like but really enjoyed, so I gave Before I Fall a try. Did I learn anything from taking an chance on this book?
Yes, that Lauren Oliver is awesome.
Oliver is an excellent writer. I like how her writing is realistic and straightforward, getting across both character and setting without overworking either. I wouldn't say her style is simplistic, but it definitely had a fluidity and balance that keeps you from really noticing the writing as you are sucked into the story.
SETTING:The settings for this story were the places the main character, Sam, visits on the last day of her life. These include her home, her high school, some places in town, and the houses of some fellow students. As I said above, Oliver doesn't dwell too much on description which I liked because it kept the focus on the story. Still, she was able to weave the atmosphere of each place into the story so they fit well and didn't hinder the pace.
While the premise of this story is a bit different and hooks you in, the theme is really about character growth. The main character Sam (Samantha) is a girl that has it all, but it is only after going through this strange event of reliving the last day of her life that she sees exactly how good she has it as well as finding out how carelessly she has lived her life. It was cool to see her grow and change as she realizes what was really going on in the world around her. As many reviewers have said before, Sam does not start out as the greatest of people, making her a character that is hard to connect to at first. But as the story moves forward, it becomes easier to identify with her and she becomes more likable and ultimately the kind of protagonist you root for.
The other characters that appear throughout the novel (and there are several) all embody different characteristics or experiences that Sam has at some point or another. There are the mean girls, the outcasts, the nerds, the jocks, every kind of person you can imagine, and what comes out at the end is that really, all of these people are the same at the most basic level. They all have their own reasons for being who they are, whether good, bad, or indifferent, and it was really cool to see that play out in the story.
One of my favorite things about the novel was how twisty it is. As Sam relives her last day over and over, she finds out different things, lives through different events, and her life and friends become a bit of a mystery to her that she realizes she never paid attention to before. It was neat getting things piece by piece and trying to figure out where all of it was headed.
I also liked the bittersweet ending. I thought it was appropriate and fit with everything that had happened. I wasn't sure how the ending would go until I got there, so I liked not knowing, but I was satisfied by it.
I was also completely on board with the "message" of the book (put in quotes because this is definitely a story and not a preachy-teachy novel) that actions have consequences that are often unseen or unexpected and that all people deserve to be treated equally and with care because more than likely you will never know what has happened in their life. I think this was part of why the ending was so satisfying because Sam truly learned this and appreciated her new knowledge.
VERDICT:Before I Fall is a great contemporary YA novel with a twist. Lauren Oliver delivers a well-crafted story that connects with you as a reader and a person, pulling you in with a bit of mystery and keeping you thinking well after the final page. The characters and situations feel real and fully demonstrate the bittersweet nature of life, making this both a thought-provoking and enjoyable read.