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Before I Fall Paperback – October 25, 2011

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Editorial Reviews Review

In this Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls teen hybrid, Sam Kingston is pretty, popular, and has a seemingly perfect boyfriend. But after a late-night party everything goes terribly wrong, and the life that she lived is gone forever. Or is it?

At the start of Before I Fall, Sam is self-consumed and oblivious about the impact of her actions on others. But as she repeatedly experiences slightly altered versions of the hours leading up to her death—and her relationships with friends, family, and formerly overlooked classmates bloom, end, or shift—it’s impossible not to feel for the girl whose life ends too soon. Oliver’s adept teen dialogue and lively prose make for a fast, page-turning story in which the reader is every bit as emotionally invested as Sam. --Jessica Schein
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—Samantha Kingston has worked her way up the popularity ladder; now a senior, she and her three best friends rule their school. On Cupid Day, Sam expects to receive Valentine roses, to party with her friends, and to finally (maybe) have sex with her equally popular boyfriend. The last thing she expects is that she will die, but in the final moments of her life, as she hears "a horrible, screeching sound—metal on metal, glass shattering, a car folding in two," everything turns to nothing. Only, it is not the end for Sam. She wakes up to start the same day over again, and again; in fact, she relives it seven times. At first, being dead has its advantages, as she realizes that nothing worse can happen to her. She first conducts herself with reckless abandon, seducing her math teacher and smoking marijuana. It is difficult to feel pity for Sam; she is snobbish, obnoxious, a cheater, and just plain mean. However, her gradual and complete transformation is so convincing that when she finally puts others before herself in order to save another life, it is moving and cathartic. The deepening relationship between Sam and Kent, her childhood friend, is sensitively described and the most complex and compelling relationship in the story. Although somewhat predictable, the plot drives forward and teens will want to see where Sam's choices lead. Fans of Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere (Farrar, 2005) will enjoy this almost-afterlife imagining.—Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (October 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061726818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061726811
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (948 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

From the Publisher

Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer on Second Chances in Books…and in Life.

1) It’s interesting that such close friends and business partners have both written books about second chances! Why do you both think that theme resonates with readers— YA readers especially?


I think the adolescent years are really the first time we begin to confront ideas about consequence and impact. With the increased freedom of growing older comes an increasing sense of responsibility and the potential for regret. And I think in general humans are fascinated by thinking about the divergent possibilities of their lives, the way that subtle changes might have tremendous, seismic effects.


A huge part of being a teen is the struggle to figure out the kind of person you want to become. On the other hand, it’s also the first time in life you begin to experience nostalgia for the days when you were “just a kid.” You’re torn between past, present, and future, realizing the only way you can go is forward. That’s a scary realization. Sometimes we just want to hit pause. Sometimes we want to go back. Fiction is a magical place where that’s possible, even when in real life it isn’t.

2) In Before I Fall, Sam gets a second chance in the sense that she is reliving one day (the day she died) over and over until she “gets it right.” In Proof of Forever, a group of estranged friends time-travel back to the summer they were fifteen and have to reconcile themselves with the choices they made…or decide to make new ones, and potentially alter their present. What writing challenges did each of these scenarios present you with? How did you overcome them during the creative process?


One of the greatest challenges of Before I Fall is that the book is, by definition, structurally repetitive, meaning it had the potential to be incredibly redundant. At the same time, I had to confront enormous continuity issues--I had to make sure that certain things happened the same way every day, and other things changed depending on Sam’s behavior. I spent a long time outlining and re-outlining the project before I even began writing.


I also outlined extensively! It was tough juggling all four girls’ plotlines—you have to keep in mind what’s happening to all of them in every chapter, even if you’re not always seeing all of them on the page at once. Also, part of the pleasure—and point—of the book, was allowing the girls to have more perspective on their choices this time around, more awareness not just of themselves but of each other and the world. More curiosity. This meant that as a writer I needed to pay attention to the tiny things—the details that you might not pick up on in life the first time, but that you would notice and care about the second time.

3) If you could each have a second chance at a moment in your life—one epic do-over—what would it be and why?


I don’t believe in do-overs! If Sam has taught me anything, it’s that the simplest change can affect the world in ways unplanned and unforeseen, and I’m very happy with how my life is unfolding.


I agree—sometimes as tempting as a do-over sounds, it’s also scary because you don’t know what else would change if that one moment changed. Still, I think there are probably a few times when I was a teen that I let fear make my choices for me. If I could go back, I’d ask the boy out, I’d submit the embarrassing poems to more journals, I’d tell people what I really thought. I would take more risks, because I’ve learned that facing fear helps you grow stronger and faster, into the happier, more fully-realized person you want to be.

4) When talking about second chances, it’s also important to remember something you got right the first time around. What’s one choice you’ve each made that led to your success as writers and collaborators?


Starting a business is very scary. There is huge potential for failure and very few people even support the idea initially, especially if you have no business experience (which I did not). I’m very proud of simply making the decision to jump in headfirst.


Yeah, team! I agree that starting Paper Lantern Lit with Lauren was a great call, even though it was terrifying at the time and there was nothing proving we’d be able to pull it off. For me, writing this book—writing a novel at all—was also a huge leap of faith. Ironically, working with other writers for a long time made me more intimidated to try my own hand at it, and I’m so glad I finally did. It feels like a whole other side of me and my creativity has opened up as a result.

5) Proof of Forever takes place at a summer camp. Lexa, why was that setting appealing to you?


There’s something about summer camp that feels so contained and separate from the rest of life. It’s a magic bubble. Those summer memories tend to seem sort of frozen in time forever, perfectly preserved. In that sense, it felt like a good symbol of childhood and the past in general, the parts that feel crystalized and perfect just as they were. What if we could go back and see them with clear eyes, though? What would we think now? Besides, so much FUN STUFF happens at summer camp—kisses, camp fires, hilarious bikini-related disasters, and of course, most importantly, intense bonding with other girls, and often-surprising self-discovery.

6) Lauren, it’s been 5 years since Before I Fall was published but there is still a ton of debate online as to whether Sam actually got her do-over or not. Why do you think that question has endured? Do you think she did?


I do, yes. I absolutely do. But I’m thrilled that so much debate endures--I love books that provoke conversation and dialogue.

7) Flashback: you both are fifteen again, just like the characters in Proof of Forever. What’s the one thing you had then you want to bring back with you to the present? (And what’s the one trend you wish would stay buried in the past?)


This is so unutterably inane, but I wish I could bring back several awesome sweatshirts I lost over the years. Or my skin tone, minus sun damage, minus fifteen + years of living. Pretty much everything else, including pleather pants, jeans secured with safety pins, and lots of waffle shirts, I am happy to leave safely buried in the 90s.


I really miss those super short cut-off shorts—and the ability to wear them with absolutely no shame! I’m not sure I’d bring them back though, unless I could also bring back the scrawny legs and free spirit that went along with them! Oh also, my hair used to reach down to my butt, and I would weave scarves into my braids. It would be fun to bring that back.

8) Finally, many authors have been participating in the #DearYAMe campaign recently. If you both could share some words of wisdom with your younger selves, what would they be?


You’re doing just fine. It’s all going to be okay. In fact, it will be even better than okay.


Let go. There’s no such thing as perfect. There’s only the moment, and you’re either in it, or it’s passing you by.

More About the Author

Lauren Oliver is the author of the YA bestselling novels Before I Fall, Panic, and Vanishing Girls and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, which have been translated into more than thirty languages and are New York Times and international bestselling novels. She is also the author of three novels for middle grade readers: The Spindlers; Liesl & Po, which was an E. B. White Read Aloud Award nominee; and Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, co-written with H. C. Chester, and a novel for adults, Rooms. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the cofounder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit. You can visit her online at

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#94 in Books > Teens
#94 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

143 of 155 people found the following review helpful By The Compulsive Reader VINE VOICE on February 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Friday, February 12th should be just another average day for popular, beautiful Samantha Kingston. But it's far from it--her ride home after a late-night party ends in a car accident, only when Sam wakes up, it's Friday, February 12th again. Forced to re-live the last day of her life seven times, Sam struggles to understand the meaning behind these experiences and the significance in her own life and actions. Because only when she can get her last day exactly right will she ever be able to take the next step.

With keen insights and startling candidness, Lauren Oliver's debut novel is a frank, if not at times brutal look at high school social circles and the careless cruelties and bullying that occurs on a daily basis. Sam is one of the mean girls, and she shrugs off her biting words and actions as something that just happens, collateral damage of living through high school. But through every complex and carefully plotted event, Oliver peels back the layers of Sam's life and teaches us all that every little deed has a consequence, and no act goes unnoticed. Though Sam is by no means a likable character at the beginning of the novel, as her character is revealed and she learns a thing or two about the things she has done in her life and the person she has become, she morphs into a true, selfless, and caring heroine, despite her many flaws. The story line is addicting and suspenseful. and as each "day" passes and Sam begins to get things right, the question that has been looming in the back of your mind since the end of the first chapter--What will happen to Sam?--becomes more and more urgent. Oliver is skillful at wielding suspense and heartbreak, making you think hard about the value of your own life and actions.

Before I Fall is a haunting and beautiful book. It will float around at the back of your mind long after you've read it.
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86 of 102 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Schrader on February 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sam is the kind of girl we can all hate. Popular, snotty, superior. In life, you could have pointed out her bad behavoir and she probably would have laughed in your face, or honestly, not cared at all. But, in death she is forced to take a good, long look at every choice she has made in her relatively short lifetime.

We get to know Sam and her friends at the beginning of the story, leading up to a crash that takes Sam's life. You have to be patient as you are introduced to them because they are not likeable at all. Just when you think you've had enough of them, they are in a deadly crash. That's not the end of the story, though, only the beginning.

Sam goes into a sort of sleep following the accident and awakens to relive her last day. Will changing something along the way lead to a different result? She tries, and tries again, and again. In fact she gets numerous attempts to "perfect" her last day, hoping she can make the most of her life...and her death if can't undo the accident.

This is not your typical tale of redeeming yourself. It's not so easy to make the changes that Sam needs to make to change fate. She doesn't simply do something new each time she gets a new day. Her first attempts are vastly different with vastly different results. It's not until she puts all the finest pieces together that she thinks she has the best solution. Life is unpredictable and so is death for Sam.

Watching this aggravating girl realize how wrong she has been is satisfying. Seeing her struggle to become a better person with only one day is fascinating. Wondering how (and if) she is going to succeed makes you not want to put this book down. Great read!

Note to parents: This book does contain a lot of references to drinking, drugs and sex, but nothing graphic.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Bradley Friedman on May 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As a high school teacher, I'm always reading young adult fiction, both for the pleasure it gives me and in order to recommend and encourage my students to read. I picked up Lauren Oliver's second book, DELIRIUM, first, because I like dystopian fiction. I wasn't blown away by that book - the society she created didn't really make sense, maybe because there are mysteries Oliver wants to explore in parts two and three - but I was impressed with Oliver's writing itself, which led me to find her debut novel.

I'm happy to say I enjoyed this book a lot more. Early on, Sam, the protagonist, herself refers to the film Groundhog Day, as if Oliver wants us to get out in the open what we are thinking. You do know all along the basic idea: by reliving her final day over and over, Sam is bound to change and be ready to move on to . . . what? Heaven? A new chance? So the premise isn't exactly original (there goes that fifth star!), but what Oliver does with it, coupled with her truly lovely prose, makes for an entertaining and thoughtful read with a very satisfying ending.

One of the other reviewers complained that Sam's quartet of mean girls doesn't change or grow enough. Well, it DOES all happen in one day, and only Sam gets to live that day over and over and, thus, change for the better. And while there's a lot of the basic "stages of grief" going on in each subsequent day, from shock to anger to sadness to acceptance, I liked what Oliver revealed about the people in Sam's life and how she tied each day together. I also think we really do get to see Sam grow and change in a believable way: we may not like the person she starts out as, but we learn how this is due to the choices she has made and these choices are believable.
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