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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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Top customer reviews
I haven't been this emotionally wrapped up in a story in a very long time.
The story in a nutshell: Groundhog Day for a popular and selfish teenage girl. On the first day, Sam dies. For the next six days, Sam replays her last day until she gets it right. The story sounds simple, and maybe kind of corny, but it isn't.
I've been trying to put my finger on what makes good writing. What is it that makes one story pick me up and pull me in and then when it's over, I feel like I'm leaving a world behind--like I'll never be the same again? And other stories leave me feeling cold--flat, and dissatisfied.
There's a certain indistinguishable essence in good story-telling. It's hard to define. However, I KNOW that part of it is a writer's ability to create multi-dimensional characters and dynamic relationships. There is no black and white in the real world. Everything, simply EVERY person, experience, place, relationship, lesson, ideal.... is made up of multiple hues and textures. When a writer can imbue that life and texture into her characters and plot....well, THAT is what makes good storytelling.
Sam isn't nice. She's a shallow, self-centered teenager. But we find out that it's not that simple. She isn't uniformly the evil popular girl. She's just a girl that doesn't even realize how all of her actions affect others. She doesn't notice that her thoughtless, minute actions have consequences. It takes a dissection of herself, her relationships, the people around her for her to finally slow down and SEE herself honestly.
What transpires is finely wrought, and altogether heart-wrenching. But the writing is never overly sappy or emotionally manipulative. The author has a light and honest touch. THIS is a story I want my teenage daughters to read. THIS is a story that is important.
The build up to the end result made me push through, and I was disappointed at the last page. I understand the progression into discovering purpose and self-realization, but the whole story felt one-sided, and I couldn't get past it. Even in the end, Sam's only thinking of how each action corresponds to her own life. And that was probably Ms. Oliver's intent. It just fell flat for me. I needed resolution for everyone else. I wanted her friends to learn a lesson from tragedy. And I wanted closure for everyone close to Sam and even the secondaries that floated on her outskirts. In death, things rarely tie in neat little bows, but insight can be found in final goodbyes. That's not what I felt here.