140 of 152 people found the following review helpful
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.
85 of 101 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2010
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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2011
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. I also like how there's no really easy fix to the crises that Sam encounters, especially when it comes to her relationship with her best friend Lindsay and that with Juliet Sykes. Juliet is a fascinating portrait of a kind of student I have seen all too often at school.
If you're a parent who checks out these reviews before buying their child a book, be warned: the book deals quite honestly with issues of sex, drinking, smoking and suicide. It would definitely be a great book for a parent to read with their son or daughter and then discuss together. (Do parents still do that with their kids?) Anyway, I do recommend this book!
57 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on March 19, 2010
Overall, BEFORE I FALL was, to say the least, a very interesting read. After looking around and seeing other reviews I can say I'm not quite as smitten with it as most people are. The reason I think is boiled down to movies. I'm a really big movie fan, and a lot of the movies I watch are somewhat like BEFORE I FALL in that they always require you to guess constantly as to how it will end, those are just the type of movies I like. Books, however, are not an instant gratification, it's not just an hour or two until you get to the end, it's 480 pages (in the case of BEFORE I FALL, anyway) of words that take much longer to get through. I think that's where, for me, BEFORE I FALL falters, it's an brilliant concept, but when it runs the course of repetitiveness on a 480 page scale I found myself slowly dragging myself through it. However, I think much of the problem I had was because of the size of the book and the constant repetitiveness of it, because it certainly wasn't with the writing or the general concept of the novel.
Lauren also gave an interview on the First Look part of the B&N forum where she said "I have two hopes for you as you begin to read Before I Fall. The first is simply this: I hope that in the beginning, you do not like the main character, Samantha, or her three best friends. I hope you find them mean, petty, self-absorbed, and superficial." ... "My second hope is more conventional. I hope that by the end of the book you will love Sam, and that you will have come to a deeper understanding of her friends, with all of their faults and frailties." -- I'm gonna have to say it, that even in the end I didn't love Sam. Thought more of her? Maybe. Loved her? No. For me Samantha's character as a whole was neverendingly whiney. Her friends were also nothing short of complete bitches. While they were slightly more compassionate to her, they still, especially Lindsay, treated her like crap for the most part. I think other than the size of the novel itself, my main issue is that the bullying was not... `properly' addressed throughout the book. It's mentioned and there are little things that happen that sort of mock Lindsay and her crew, but there is no overall sense of punishment, and I hate that. Especially for people who are so out rightly horrible. I wish that as a final stand Sam had stood up to them a little more strongly and kind of put them in their place other than her sideways remarks here and there.
Having said that though, in the end I did enjoy BEFORE I FALL, and Lauren is a wonderful writer, and I honestly look forward to seeing what she comes up with next. She really managed to bring the story and Sam's surroundings to life, and present the story in a very realistic way. The book itself is a little long, the main character is a little whiney, and the addressing of the major sub-plot (bullying) was a little weak, but hey, we can't all be perfect!
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I'm torn. I absolutely loved parts of this story, and really did not like other parts. So, overall, I'm pretty lukewarm about it. And kind of confused, so there is much I want to explore here.
When I first started reading, I really didn't like Sam. At all. She is everything I am not, and that I vehemently disagree with. I set this book down three times, reading other books instead. But I kept picking it back up because this is the kind of story that requires a lot of character growth, and the promise of that kept me reading. Still, I had a very hard time with the beginning, and I'm still torn about that.
On the one hand, I can see that Sam's character needs to be established so that we can see, and truly appreciate, her growth later on. So, I agree that we need to see her so unlikable, otherwise we can't fully appreciate her growth. I truly believe the beginning needed to be this way...and yet, I still didn't like it. This is unusual for me. The needs of the story can usually persuade me into overlooking things I might not like, and that just didn't happen in this case. I think that if she had grown just a little bit quicker, then I might have liked it better...it was difficult to dislike her for so many chapters, and I found myself mumbling `come on, grow up already.'
The middle is the best part of the whole book. Sam's growth is very natural to the story, and very well done. I loved seeing her open her eyes to the world around her, and acknowledging how her actions have reactions. Sometimes severe reactions. When she realizes this, she grows leaps and bounds. I started rooting for her to figure out how to end her predicament, and was glued to the pages.
But then we got to the end, which I completely disagree with. Granted, the last couple paragraphs are powerful and leave you with a contented feeling of finality, but the events leading up to them didn't fit with the rest of the story.
Throughout Sam's growth, she works very hard to help others, one of them being Juliet Sykes. And Sam is relentless in trying to get Juliet to understand that she can't give up because her actions will have reactions that can severely affect others. This is one of my favorite parts of the story, and I eagerly anticipated the ending because I wanted to see how Sam would succeed (and I was convinced she would succeed). But then everything fell apart, because Sam was the one who gave up. Everything she says and does on her last day screams that she's given up. In doing so, she disregards everything she's learned about actions and reactions.
Again, this is a part of the book where I'm torn, because I do believe the story needed to go in this general direction, and the ending was right for the story--*except* for the part where Sam gives up. She accepts her fate way too easily and lets herself slide away with no thought to those who love her (one of the arguments she uses on Juliet). If she had fought and struggled and regretted at least a little bit, then the ending would have been far more powerful, even if the end result had been the same.
I don't think I've ever been so torn over a book, and can't even decide whether or not to recommend it. Some parts are amazing, and other parts really turned me off. If you like stories about popular kids and high school parties, then you might like this one. If not, you might want to pass. Also, the age range is definitely young adult (not middle grade) because of scenes with drinking, drugs, and sex.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Oh boy, this book, this was a tough one to figure out for me. I started reading, liked the style but was a bit concerned that the same day repeating 7 times might get a little old, I had heard it didn't, but sadly the first 3 days turned out to be very similar in my mind. I gave the book a break for a few weeks and picked it back up. Luckily the days started to become more different, Sam began to speak her mind and shake things up and I was a bit more hooked. More characters were explored, Sam started to grow up and speak her mind. But the end was not good for me. I won't say much about it here so as not to spoil, but some people like these types of endings and sometimes I do as well. But it was written in such a way that I didn't get any sort of resolution or validation and I was left with frustration.
Sam is an interesting character, she was at her best when she was spending time with her little sister. Her friends are the mean popular girls that I never really was able to warm up to. It was kind of upsetting that Sam was like, well, that's just the way they are and I love them anyways. Her friend Lindsay especially got on my nerves, she was not a good person. In the end I did like that the 7 days explored the everyday things that could change in Sam's life, who she had lunch with, what she did after school, the more minor things. Things she took the time to do one day or the people she got to know another.
I most enjoyed the middle of the book when Sam gets to know her old friend Kent and hangs out with people other than her 3 good friends. Overall this book was frustrating to me, don't get me wrong there was something here it just didn't fit together perfectly for me.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2010
"Before I Fall" is Lauren Oliver's debut novel and I think for a first effort it is pretty good.
The premise of the book is not too original - it is a sort of cross between "Mean Girls" and "The Groundhog Day," but Oliver develops it well. Samantha, one of her school's mean girls, relives her last day over and over again, learning more about herself and people around her with each replay. Will she learn enough to make a difference, to change her attitude and her life?
Being a foreigner, I was spared the misfortune of being bullied by mean girls, I don't have any experiences of Samanthas and Lindsays of this world. Therefore I am guessing my opinion of the book is somewhat skewed. I don't hate Samantha and her friends, instead I find this gang amusing in a dysfunctional way and feel sorry for them. Samantha seems to be an extremely unaware person, with low self esteem who doesn't even realize that she is constantly mistreated by her boyfriend, she is directionless and has almost no aspirations beyond getting drunk with her friends and sleeping with her boyfriend. Isn't that a total waste of life?
I don't hate the girls, because there are always those people who lash out at others and bring people down to hide their own insecurities. There is nothing new about it. What I find appalling is the complacency of people around them - their classmates, parents, school officials. How can these 4 teenage girls have a free rein of the school, how can they possibly influence everyone around them? It literally boggles my mind. Why is every girl so eagerly calls another one a slut or psycho when she can be at any moment the recipient of the same fate? It this is not a dumb herd mentality, I don't know what is. It is a scary thing in these days of school shootings and student suicides. But I digress...
I liked the book a lot, it is certainly a page turner and Samantha's road to self-awareness is compelling. However the ending is fairly unsatisfying IMO. I expected Samantha to face the consequences of her actions, to find a road to redemption, but I didn't think she would achieve this redemption so easily and would also be rewarded with a nice guy in the end. I personally don't think she ever completely owns up to her actions, never fully acknowledges her part in Juliet Sykes' demise and never confronts her friends. The whole time Samantha is more interested in hooking up with a new guy than in saving a life or at least pointing to her friends the things she has learned. Whatever "sacrifice" she makes in the end doesn't make a difference. In reality I think everything would be on track the next day - bullying, vicious gossiping, taunting of Juliet by Lindsay. So, what is the point of this experience for Samantha? To convince herself she is not so bad after all? Not enough IMO.
But regardless of my general disagreement with the outcome of the story, "Before I Fall" is a memorable novel. It is poignant in the portrayal of school bullying, and its effect on people, it is thought provoking and definitely current. I will check out Lauren Oliver's future works.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is haunting, ethereal, but also kind of boring, at least for me.
Samantha Kingston is stuck in a loop. She is pretty much your typical "mean girl" follower. She's high up on the popularity chain, she follows the group leader, Lindsay, in making mean remarks and very hurtful actions towards others, and she just does it because she knows she can get away with it. Sam totally admits this from the very start of the book. However, everything changes the night of a party when Sam dies. Thus begins the loop of reliving the same day over and over again, seven times by book's end.
As each day begins again, Sam starts to change, to see just how hurtful she is to others, and to herself in a lot of ways. Her actions are brought back to her tenfold and characters that started off as minor become major catalysts for her change.
All this said, I found Sam's journey to be incredibly long and drawn out. I started skimming midway through this book because I found her days starting to get repetitive. Yes, she did change but at the same time, I felt like the book was bogged down in the minor details of the day. Many readers may find this a good thing, and it certainly reinforces how even the most minor of actions can have a major consequence, but at the same time, I just wanted to see the story truly move forward.
Lauren Oliver has a very strong writing style however. She does a great job of subtly showing Sam's new understanding and change. Oliver just has a wonderful writing style and that kept me hanging onto this story when in other books, I may have given up if the writing had not been so strong.That is one of Lauren Oliver's talents in this book. Hitting the teen nail right on the head. Being self-centered, self-absorbed, but also having an insight into the world that an adult has passed by, all through truly amazing writing.
In the end, I came away from this book with mixed feelings. The writing is fantastic; I felt like I was able to explore Sam as a character because of the reliving of the same day. But at the same time, I didn't feel like it was action-packed enough to keep my interest. And despite the heavy subject matter, it didn't quite engage my emotions as strongly as it could have. I feel like teens will love this book because it is such a heavy topic and lord knows, the more tragic the story, the more teens seem to love them. Lauren Oliver gives tragedy a new twist with exceptional writing. Even with my mixed feelings, this is a quality piece of teen fiction.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on March 29, 2010
Last May I had the wonderful opportunity to go to the BookExpo America in New York City. While there I picked up this card from the Harper Collins booth that was an egalley for Lauren Oliver's debut novel Before I Fall. The thing that drew me most to this galley was the cover. It was so haunting and eye catching that even without reading the premise I knew I had to take it home with me. Then the first moment I was able I loaded it onto Anne the eReader and began to read.
At first I did not like Sam.
Boy did I not like her. She is popular and rude and just everything that I wasn't in high school. In fact she reminded me of a few unpleasant people that I had the misfortune to know in school and I wasn't all that upset when she died. I know. I know....I'm a terrible horrible person!!
But then....Sam wakes up. She tries again. And before I knew it I was caring more then I ever thought possible for this girl. There is real character growth here and while the story takes place over seven days - which is such a short time - Lauren Oliver tackles all these changes in a real and believable way. By the end of the story I had been wrung through a whole gauntlet of emotions that I was spent. I laughed, I cried, my heart broke and my heart was healed. With each new day the story just became richer and more layered and while you knew what was going to happen there was still something new and different that it kept you on your toes.
For me though this book wasn't all about love. I did have some serious issues with the ending and how I feel that the story played out. And while, in my discussions with the fabulous Lauren Oliver, have shown that I'm wrong (yes Lauren I'm admitting it since you ARE the author and creator of the story and DO know best).....I still stand by my interpretation of the story. An interpretation that at first Lauren was surprised at since it wasn't one that had initially crossed her mind. One thing we both agreed on thought that part of what makes reading so interesting is that everyone comes away from a story with something different. Reading is such a uniquely personal experience that I don't think that the same person can re-read a story the same way, that every read of a book is different.
But I digress.
So back to Before I Fall...as I said I didn't like how the book ended. For me I think that it was wonderful the changes that Sam made but in the end the changes were all about her and it goes back to her initial selfish nature. Was the world she lived in better when the sun rose on 13 Feb? Or where things a little more broken because of the changes that she made in reliving her last day? I ask this because one thing Sam does in the story is to start a new relationship with a boy that she hadn't thought much of before then. A really sweet adorkable boy that I just adored and if she didn't live through her accident then how would her death affect him now....as opposed to how he'd be affected if Sam was still the mean girl she was?
One of the things that bothered me most, based on my interpretation of the read, was that it seemed like Sam was talking herself into suicide. That there was no other possible outcome then for the accident to happen as it did. But did she try all the possible outcomes? Was there a way for the ending to be different? Who is to say. Although I know that if there was a happily ever after I know that would have upset me too. Because life isn't perfect. There are some beautiful and wonderful things in the world but there is also pain, heartache and sacrifice. I think that Before I Fall is a stunningly well written book and while there were things that I disliked...a lot...I loved the writing and the world building. Its on the writing that I base my 5 star rating the fact that I loved Oliver's words despite not agreeing with them. That and the endless potential for discussion in this book. If you are in a book club then I highly recommend that you choose this book for one of your reads.
And no matter what you think of Before I Fall...love it, hate it...what ever you feel drop a line to Lauren Oliver and tell her so. Authors love to hear from readers and she is so awesomely amazing that I know she'd love to discuss her words with you. I'm also living proof that she won't dislike you if you don't agree with her 100%. =)
As originally posted on my blog Ticket to Anywhere
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2014
This is the story of a teenage girl who lives the last day of her life seven times, in the hopes of finally getting it right. Samantha Kingston is weak-minded, shallow, and rather vapid, qualities I hoped would be interrogated and maybe corrected by the end. She has three friends, all of whom are as petty and nasty as she is. It quickly became apparent to me that her friend Lindsay was the queen bee, and the other three are all her minions. None of them are happy, largely because of Lindsay's tyrannical views on how popular girls should act, what they should like, and whom.
The problem is, a lot of narrative time is wasted on plot irrelevancies. Samantha spends time exploring other options, good and bad, in her day, and that's fine, but this is a 115,000+ word book. The other two friends, Elody and Ally, are meant to be important characters, but felt very poorly drawn. We're told Elody is a ditzy but good hearted, and Ally is OCD and a good cook, but we rarely see them in action doing anything but being follower morons, over and over. They should either have been portrayed in more depth, combined into one meaningful character, or cut out. In one of the chapters, Elody dies. I know I'm supposed to care, but I didn't. She was a nothing character.
As for Sam: she decides she's going to save Juliet Sykes from suicide. It's revealed that the reason for her choice to die is the way Sam and her friends have tormented her over the years, at the instigation of Lindsay. The reason for her treatment of Juliet was wafer thin and not particularly credible. I expected that Sam would confront Lindsay, would make her understand how her actions had harmed Juliet, as well as many other characters in the book. But no. There is no comeuppance for Lindsay. We get Sam professing her undying love for Lindsay to the end, despite Lindsay being a domineering, selfish, arrogant monster. It's Sam who has to make the sacrifice to right Lindsay's wrongs. It didn't make sense.
It also didn't make sense how easily Sam threw her life way. She finally found true love in Kent McFuller, freed herself a bit from the prosaic boundaries of who's cool and who isn't, and finally has a shot at being a decent person. So the only way for her to proceed is to die saving Juliet? That's ridiculous. Not very true to the teen mentality or Sam's. Overall, I feel like this book delved into too many irrelevancies and missed the chance to have Sam really stand up for herself. She never does. She dies doing Lindsay's karmic dirty work, as she'd done her dirty work in life. It was a really unsatisfying ending.