Before I Fall

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver Read This Review & More Like It On My Blog!4.5 out of 5 starsAnother young-adult novel with a fresh and unique hook, Before I Fall is the intense, alternatively sad and infuriating story of Sam Kingston's last day alive. The structure of this book is different: Sam relives her last day seven times throughout the pages throughout seven chapters - after the end of each day, she wakes up, alive, back in her bed on the morning of the day of her death. I really enjoyed the way this story was told: each successive reliving of February 12 uncovers more about Sam and her life pre-mean personality. This careful and deliberately slow unlayering of Sam's personal history allows the reader to more easily see the myriad ways Sam has changed. The writing is so well done I was actually occasionally embarrassed in Sam's head, reading her thoughts and actions. The first-person narrative is utilized very well; everything feels ultra-personal and real in a way very few novels do. It does not feel as if you are reading Sam's exploits: you are experiencing them with her as she goes through her last day alive.Samantha Kingston is popular. She's also a mean, self-centered, a bitch, shallow, selfish girl. But in the world of American high school, it's the first attribute that matters, and is currency worth its weight in gold. Though she herself was once one of the unpopular kids, Sam shows no mercy or pity now that she's risen to the top of the heap. The hints and clues revealed about Sam's character make it obvious that she wasn't always so hard-edged and unfriendly. ("It's Connecticut: being like the people around you is the whole point," is another phrase used by Sam in the justification of her actions and changes.) Every time she "returned" to Cupid Day, I liked Sam more, and her friend Lindsay less. Lindsay, coincidentally, was the person who used to torture Sam as children. In a sadly believable twist of the story, Sam learns to hide who she is and what she really loves in order to become friends with the Queen Lindsay. The differences between Lindsay and Sam's characters and actions bring several questions to mind: Which is worse, perpetrating the act (Lindsay), or standing by and doing nothing when you could have (Sam)? One of my main problems with Sam was her refusal to stand up to her friends. Samantha even baldly states, "Lindsay's the one [...] I didn't do anything; I just followed along." I don't know what bothers me more: that Sam thought that was a justifiable reason for her nonactions, or that it's a completely true representation of a teenager's attitude.If Sam and her friends are the "haves" of high school, anyone that has the misfortune to not be them or their friend are the "have nots." Sam states in the beginning pages, "If high school were a game of poker, Lindsay, Ally, Elody and I would be holding 80% of the cards."Those other players in the game of high school are never as fully rounded out as Sam - but that's okay because the story is about Sam and Sam's decisions. The other girls, though catalysts for trouble and pain, are shown to have softer, more kind sides, it is never to anyone outside the group. The girls target one teenager more than the rest: Juliet Sykes, weirdo extraordinaire. Juliet is infinitely more sympathetic than any other character; her treatment at the hands of the queen bees is quite horrific, and ultimately the turning point of the novel. Sam's boyfriend Rob is one bad-movie boyfriend cliche after another, but the worst part of their relationship that it's a fairly honest portrayal of teenage relationships. Instead of following her heart and going after an "uncool" guy, Sam shows her low self-esteem and self-worth by staying with a jerk for much of the novel. This is a novel that stays with you. Whether it's because it's sad, or meaningful or ingenious in its storytelling, it is hard to simply walk away from the contents and the characters of this book. Lauren Oliver mixes completely real problems with some slight science fiction elements, and moving prose for a novel that resonates with the audience. With imperfect and pitch-perfect human characters and a compellingly original tale, Lauren Oliver has crafted a story that is authentic and poignant. Mixing beautiful passages amongst the more direct tone, Lauren Oliver has created something wonderful. I know some have had issues with the conclusion, but I thought it was perfect in its simplicity. This is one novel I'll be rereading, and I'll also searching out more of Lauren Oliver's books."I realize I'm not surrounded by dark, but have only had my eyes closed all this time. . . I haven't been falling all this time, I've been flying."