Monday, March 22, 2010

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

“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—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.”

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver is different from any book you’ve read. Instead of watching a character change over time, you experience the change that Sam undergoes as she is allowed to live the same day again, seven times.

What I loved:

You may be tempted to think that this book is too much like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Don’t let the repetitive nature of the book turn you away. I never once got tired of re-living Sam’s day in the book.

Don’t you love the cover? The youthfulness of the model pictured and the gravity in her eyes drew me to the book, I had to read it.

Before I Fall is Lauren Oliver’s debut book. Her authentic teen voice is realistic; you can picture the teenagers and it’s hard to believe that her characters are fictional.

The premise of being allowed a re-do holds great appeal. I think we all love the idea of being able to go back and re-live a day in our lives, may it be a perfectly happy day to enjoy again, or a day of regret that could be redeemed.

The complexity of this story blows me away. In interviews, the author said that she used an extensive timeline to keep track of the story. She earned my trust in the first do over. Even events that had seemed insignificant in the first day were addressed in each chance that Sam got to change the outcome of her day.

The analogy that a migrating group of butterflies can cause a rainstorm in Brazil captures the theme of connectivity. Even the smallest action you take can cause an unforeseen reaction. Oliver pointedly shows that we are all connected and that we can’t always control whether the results of our actions are positive or negative. Lauren Oliver commented on the connective theme in an interview: “People are connected; lives are intertwined, whether you know it or not, and the deeper your recognition of your connection to other people, the more meaningful and happy your life will be. So that is the message I would hope teens (and anyone who reads the book) would be able to carry with them.”

Redemption is another theme that Oliver successfully addressed in the novel. She explores the question, is it possible to redeem yourself from the regretful things you do, be they intentional or not? What happens when you make a change for the better?

I loved the loyalty that Sam had to her friends, especially to Lindsay.

Quotes from the book that touched me:

“I hate both of my parents right now…for letting the thread between us stretch so far and so thin that the moment it was severed for good they didn’t even feel it.”

“You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That’s how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to bust out of orbit, to spin out to a place where no one can touch you.”

What I would have changed:

It took me awhile to keep the characters straight, especially in the first chapter. I had to keep flipping back to see who was who. I can understand why Oliver had to introduce all of the characters so quickly, given the nature of the story, but it was a distraction for me.

I had a hard time relating to Sam for most of the book, probably because my high school experience was so different than what she went through.

I know from reading interviews from Lauren Oliver that she hates it when people comment on the amount of drinking and sex in the book. But I have to say that there was too much drinking and promiscuity for my taste. Some will think of me as prudish for saying so, but I think that writers of YA have a responsibility to promote positive behavior. Before you judge me as being too judgmental, hear me out. I can understand and appreciate it when authors represent true to life situations, and I know that there are teen issues that can be successfully dealt with in book format. But showing irresponsible behavior with no negative consequences can give impressionable teens the wrong idea. It does not bother me that the girls in this book were drinking and promiscuous. What does bother me is that the book gave the impression that this was the way that a popular person acts and gave no repercussions. Though Sam changed drastically from the person she was at the beginning of the book, I was left believing that her views on drinking and immorality were not among the changes that her experience had wrought in her.

I gave this book 3/5 stars.

Find out more at Lauren's website
Check out the book trailer:

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes and Noble
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Paranormal.
Publisher: March 2nd 2010 by HarperCollins, Hardcover, 470 pages
Where I got the book: Amazon

Food to eat while reading: 7 Layer Mexican Dip


  1. Love the way you explained what you like and what you don't. And your last point was a good one! I was thinking, like the author said, that it's real so why not write like it really is. But what you say about showing the consequences or letting that be one of the things she learns from is a good point.

  2. Thanks Jenny. I am still learning how to give an honest review without stepping on an author's toes.

  3. I agree with Jenny, I liked your review format explaining exactly what liked and didn't.
    Nice blog Christy, looking forward to reading more of your reviews.

  4. Hey! Found you on the bookblogs network and now I'm following you. Take a look at my blog and if you like it, consider following me too. =] Lovely site....keep up the good work.

  5. I loved your review of Before I Fall. You articulated your thoughts very well. I am still struggling with my own reviewing of books. This is probably one of the best reviews of Before I Fall that I've read. I really want to read this book for myself.

  6. This was a good book... we discussed it in my book club and it brought out a lot of opinions!



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