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Before I Fall Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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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
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.
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I started reading this book a few times, abandoning it and returning before making any head way. All the immaturity, the teen girl snarkiness and bullying was just so tiresome. Plus the Groundhog styled repetition of the same day lagged the pacing.
I didn't particularly like our protagonist Sam for most of the novel. She wears the moniker 'bitch' unapologetically and seems to pinball from one social scene to the next swaying under the banner of peer pressure and grasping to remain at the precipice of the social hierarchy. Then about halfway through the novel things changed. Sam became much more interesting, her choices became more altruistic. I laughed so hard in her 'rebellious' day it added a much needed punch to a novel I was starting to find boring.
The supporting cast felt all very teen - wrapped up in their own dramas and self-importance. So the characterization was bang on, though I had little patience for their carry on. Sheesh I felt so old reading this book.
It was a pretty easy writing style, a plain easy beat once the pace picked up, I flew through the second half of the novel. Though I did like the tone ‘Before I Fall’ set: it glances at repercussions of behaviour, atonement, bullying, suicide, depression, compassion, and acceptance. For such a wishy-washy teen babbling premise, it alludes to some much more serious issues.
I'd recommend the novel to lovers of YA who don't mind a slow developing story. Plenty of drama and hijinks. Weird in some places, but the cyclical structure of the story resolves everything nicely. And like the proverbial light in the opening scene, you see it coming and there is nothing you can do to avoid it.
It’s a fairly chunky and clunky book, it manages to redeem itself. The cover art captures an air of mystery with just a portion of the face lying on the ground… though I would have liked to see it in cooler colours with some snow to reflect the pivotal scene in the novel. The font was on the smaller side and there seemed to be a lot of italicised lines, but it captured the ambience really well and helped keep the page count down from a heavy wrist-aching book.
I watched the movie shortly after completing the novel, and have to say I slightly enjoyed the cinematic version of this story more…
As usual, Lauren Oliver's writing was beautiful. She easily paint's a picture with words and perfectly captures the viewpoints of teenage girls, including their flawed perceptions and ability to be cruel. Sam goes on a journey throughout this book where she learns to see things from other perspectives. She learns to question things and to do the right thing.
The ending, however, is heart-wrenching. There are some books where I feel sad at the end but overall justified that things worked out the way they were supposed to. I don't know if I feel that way about this book. <Spoiler> Maybe I'm just a sucker for happy endings, but it just seemed like this book didn't have to end with Sam's death. And, I actually felt a little like her death didn't really change anything. I wanted her death to have more meaning. Yes, she saves Juliet, but Lindsay is the same person and even if Juliet saw Sam give her life for her, what's to stop Juliet from trying to commit suicide tomorrow. I feel like if this book was going to end the way it did, then we should have gotten a scene from Juliet's POV to assure the reader that Sam's sacrifice made a difference. Otherwise, I don't see why both Sam and Juliet couldn't have lived. Mostly, I feel bad for Kent. He didn't deserve to lose her after all that. </Spoiler>
I will also say that if I would have only gone to the movie, I would not have understand the characters actions at all. The movie doesn't really show why Samantha changes from hating Kent, to loving Kent. I was glad the movie removed the smoking and the sex scene with the teacher. When reading the book, I was a little put off that they would in any way celebrate a teacher acting like that.
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