Buy Before I Fall
Regular price $10.28
Publisher: Harper Collins
Reviewer: Melissa on September 30, 2014
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
For popular senior Samantha Kingston, February 12 – also known as “Cupid Day” – ought to be one big party filled with valentines, roses, and all the privileges that comes with being at the top of the high school social pyramid. And everything is as to be expected…until she dies in a terrible accident that night. However, she still wakes up the next morning. Except that it isn’t really the next morning because in Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may be more powerful than she ever imagined.
Although Before I Fall was published four years ago and I actually read it, for the first time, two and a half years ago, I never actually got around to reviewing it. Though I didn’t hesitate to give it a five-star rating on Goodreads, my comments on that social media site consisted of nothing more than “So good. So good.” For most people who have read Oliver’s first novel before, this concise description is true in a way that not much is, but having just finished a reread of it, I feel like I need to say a lot more. Before I Fall could easily be one of the most compelling young adult novels I’ve ever read. If you liked Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, then I’m warning you…this review may force you to add at least one more book to your TBR and to face a series of thought-provoking questions about death, love, and the ways in which one person’s life and decisions can impact so many others.
Sam Kingston is popular. In fact, she’s one of four girls who form one of the most popular cliques at Thomas Jefferson in small town Connecticut. She’s also – along with her best friends Lindsay Edgecombe, Ally Harris, and Elody – one of the meanest girls at her school. At the beginning of the novel, Sam wouldn’t think anything of implying to Kent McFuller – a guy that she knows has had a crush on her for years – that she’d only go to his party if there’s nothing better to do or to joining her friends in making Juliet Sykes’ life a living hell day after day. By forcing Sam to relive the same day repeatedly over the course of the novel, however, Oliver demonstrates how the smallest changes in the way she behaves with both her friends and other students can profoundly affect the way her last day on earth plays out.
Beyond the complex structure of the story and the large cast of characters, Oliver also delivers on the thing that she’s best known for – beautiful writing that serves to strengthen every other aspect of the novel. Sam, her friends, her boyfriend Rob, and Kent are the best developed in the novel, but she even paints the secondary characters in three dimensions. Similarly, while she presents the same major events of Cupid Day seven times, each retelling – even the ones that are as close to the first time as possible – offer readers unique insights into Sam’s world while simultaneously projecting a feeling of continuous déjà vu. Oliver is able to do this by explaining that the minor characters she sees while entering Thomas Jefferson are doing something again, even when it’s a moment that wasn’t important enough to form part of the narrative from the first Cupid Day. However, on the second repeat, these minor details help not only establish that the world is high school big, but also that it isn’t just Sam’s imagination, that she really is reliving yesterday. Through her descriptions of the big and the small moments and the ways she develops personality in the major, secondary, and minor characters, Oliver breaks down our propensity for disbelief in the paranormal aspect of this novel and allows readers to, instead, revel in a world that rings true.
When you hear someone say that you never know whether a smile or a moment of thoughtfulness between strangers or acquaintances can change their life, you may be inclined to dismiss it as a cliché. True enough, it has been said before in countless stories, like Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but that doesn’t negate how profound this idea is, especially in the case when it’s truly understood by a young adult for the first time. Some books, even ones that deal with difficult subject matter, can restore your faith in the power of human agency, kindness, and thoughtfulness. Before I Fall is one such book, the kind that will lift up your spirit in a way that every reader ought to experience at least once.
Buy Before I Fall today!