Lauren Oliver Before I Fall
470 pp. Harper Collins. 2010 ISBN: 978-0-06-172680-4 $17.99
Samantha Kingston has it all: a hot boyfriend, great clothes, popularity, beauty. What she doesn’t have is tomorrow or the day after that. Samantha wakes up on February 12th, Cupid Day, excited to receive more roses than most, attend an awesome party, and just maybe lose her viriginity to her boyfriend. Everything goes terribly wrong when she and her friends leave the party and get into a horrific car accident. Sam wakes up thinking she’s had the worst nightmare of her life, only to find out that it’s February 12th– again. She has the chance to repeat the day she dies seven times and make some important changes.
Before the school year ended I saw one of my freshmen, a converted “non reader”, reading this. Any time one of my students is reading something new I check into it. I was mostly intrigued by Jay Asher’s quote on the cover “You’ll have no choice but to tear through this book!” I’m a huge fan of his novel Th1rteen R3asons Why so Before I Fall was added to my TBR list until I discovered the 2010 Debut Author Challenge. Now a third reason to read it! So before Keith and I left for Oregon, I went out and bought it to read on the plane :)
As soon as I started reading I was hooked; I think I read 100 pages in less than hour. Even though Samantha is a down-right nasty girl, I couldn’t help but continue on. Sam feels she deserves her high ranking status at her high school, and for everyone else beneath her, well, life just isn’t fair. Gag! I hated girls like that in high school. This is the genious of Lauren Oliver. Because Samantha is so horrible, I needed to know how she was going to fix her wrongs by repeating the day she died. Will she quit following everything her best friend, Lindsay, says and does? Will she give Kent the time of day? And poor Juliet Sykes… These are things I had to know.
The problem I have with this book is mostly the length. Before I Fall shouldn’t have been much more than 300-350 pages. Yes, Sam’s repeating the day seven times. Yes, changes are made and truths are discovered. But the writing, while beautiful and engaging, began to grow repetitive. Each time Sam sees Juliet, Juliet is described pretty much the same way: “She’s pretty. She looks like a model. Her skin is perfectly clear and white…” The first couple times this scene, when Sam really sees Juliet, is repeated I can understand her awe. But each day? Little details like these are the reason I had a hard time finishing this novel. It has nothing to do with the story itself, but the excessive amounts of detail.
Overall I recommend reading this. Readers will learn the importance of compassion and understanding, while (hopefully) realizing how unimportant the materialistic side of life is.