Review: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Published by Hodder and Stoughton, 2010

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How I discovered this book: After all the hype around Delirium, I got curious with Lauren Oliver’s books. I saw Before I Fall in my public library, liked the story premise and decided to give it a try.

ReviewThis book awoke in me a huge amount of feelings. I mean, I felt angry, heartbroken, hateful, warmhearted, frustrated, nostalgic… I still don’t know exactly how I feel about the book now. (Maybe while writing this review I’ll know how I feel about the book. It’s not the first time it happens.) I do know that this story reminded me to be more mindful of the gift that is to be alive and what kind of person I want to be

The book is about Samantha Kingston, a high school mean girl who dies in a car accident when she’s coming home after a Friday night out partying with her friends. The thing is that Sam doesn’t stay dead, like people are supposed to. Instead, she wakes up over and over to relive her last day until she figures out what is stopping her from moving on. Each chapter corresponds to a day relived by Sam, and each day she becomes more aware of the mistakes she made and how empty her life is. In other words, she is given the chance to make amends and set things right before she moves on.

Samatha is one of those insufferable popular/mean girls, with her popular group of annoying/selfish friends that we all must have met in high school. I was one of those geeky/smart/bullied girls, really close to the edge of the social circle, so reading about Sam’s daily life and her friends (Lindsey, Elody and Ally) did touch a nerve. Sometimes I just wanted to slap them all, yell “wake up! stop being so shallow and stupid! what you say and the rumours you spread have consequences!”. God! These girls irritated me SO MUCH. I’m so glad high school days are long gone.

On the other hand, I liked that Oliver chose a mean girl as a main character. It was refreshing, actually. We always have YA books about non-popular girls, (socially awkward, completely insecure), that after finding “Edward Cullen” turn out to be really cute and beautiful and smart and strong. *I think there’s a factory somewhere making this kind of characters 24/7.* Sam and her friends were a challenge and, honestly, Oliver did a great job showing us their side of the story, the perks and cons of being in the popular side. Oliver showed me these girls’ “human” side, their flaws, weaknesses and fears. I’m glad she did it, because it really added to the book. Sam didn’t know better, she just followed the crowd and “the rules” that say acting like “this” is the right way, the cool way. At some point I stopped hating her and actually felt sorry for the girls, because they were just so unaware of what life is really about. To be truthful, on the last two chapters I actually liked Sam and felt sorry she was, well, dead.

We also get to know some characters on the non-popular side, who were bullied by Sam and her friends (Juliet Sykes, Anna Cartullo, Kent McFuller). I liked them the most, to be honest. I could relate to them. Juliet was a victim, her only fault was loving her friend too much and being compassionate. Kent had a crush on Sam since ever, but the girl was so stupid and so “worried” about being popular that she wouldn’t date someone she loved, only someone who was “cool”. (bahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! you have no idea how this kind of mentality drives me crazy!!). Although, when Sam dies, she finally starts using her brain cells and sees that Rob (the jerk she calls boyfriend) is not worth her time and Kent is, after all, the one she truly loves. (well Sam, you should have figured that out sooner, don’t you think?). I’m so sorry for Kent!! Oliver should have allowed him to move on, find another girl to love. Sam is dead! It’s not like she’s coming back from ghost land. Was it necessary to break the guy’s heart over and over? That’s mean. I didn’t like it. It broke my heart. 

Now, what I really  didn’t like about the book was the repetition. Since each of the seven chapters is a reliving of Sam’s last day, with little to no changes on the first 2 to 3 days, at some point I got SO bored. I mean, I was hating the main characters, I was reading about the same daily routine and events chapter after long chapter. At some point I really had to force myself to turn the page and keep reading. Also, the book was all too predictable. I already knew where the story was going, the “thing” that Sam had to do to move on, that she was going to turn away from her mean self and try to be a better person… Nothing surprised me! So, again, I had to force my way through the book, only because I thought that the overall message was worth it. I’m glad I did it, though. In the end, I enjoyed the book.

Obviously, this is a story, and I honestly don’t believe that we all have the chance to realise after death of how mean and utterly stupid we’ve been to others, how eagerly we’ve been throwing our lives to the gutter, and still have time do something about it. Nevertheless, I really liked the message Oliver tried to pass. I mean, do we really stop to think before we say “I hate you” or other rude stuff to our parents/friends/whoever that these might be the last words they’re going to hear from us? We don’t think about this stuff. Most of us live every day as if we are immortal, but we aren’t. As if we’ll always have a tomorrow, and we don’t really know if we will. Most of the time, we don’t think about what we do and say, we don’t care if and how it will affect others. I’ve lost too many loved ones to know how quickly and sudden we can leave this world… To know that most of the time we don’t get a second chance to tell them how much we love and respect them. Sometimes loss strikes as a lightening. You don’t know you’ve lost that person until she/he is no longer there. And then you see your heart being shattered, broken to pieces, and all you think about is what you could have done differently. So, you can see that, despite everything that was annoying and boring, this book touched me. Mostly because I could understand and relate to the author’s message, to the lesson we can learn through Sam’s story. This book reminded me again that each day is precious. It reminded me to be less selfish and more caring with people. It reminded me that not long ago I said to myself that I was going to be a better human being, and I still have a lot to do to reach my goal.

Overall: I think this book is a must read specially for teenagers, actually. In a way, it’s really a wake up call and, if we pay attention, it can really point the path to be a better person and value more each day we get to live. It’s a lesson. So, despite all the plot annoyances, repetitions and predictability, it’s a book I definitely recommend.

(P.S.: Sorry for the incredibly long review!!! Someone needs to teach me how to write objective, short straight-to-the-point reviews. If you read it all, thank you!)

3,5-5-stars

Quotes worth mentioning: 

“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.” 

“It’s funny, isn’t it? When you are young you just want to be old, and then later you wish you could go back to being a kid.”

“Here’s another thing to remember: hope keeps you alive. Even when you’re dead, it’s the only thing that keeps you alive.”

 

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11 thoughts on “Review: Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

  1. I read Delirium when it first came out, and was pleased with Lauren Oliver for ending the runt of terrible young adult books. I never got the chance to read this book though, I might have to give it a try. Such a wonderful review!

    • Hi Paris! Thanks! I think this book is worth the try. 🙂
      To be honest with you, when I borrowed Before I Fall from the library I was looking for Delirium, but I would have to wait a long time until the book was available. So, I was kind of hoping that after this read I could skip Delirium and move on to other authors, since I wasn’t expecting all that much of LO… I just wanted to see what the fuss was all about, you know? But I actually liked LO’s writing and I think she’s definitely original, so I might keep reading her books.
      Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  2. I liked this one more than you did I think Pat. It was pre blog so I have no review or rating but I think it would have been 4 stars if I was rating it now. I love LO’s writing and I think she takes risks such as choosing to have a horrible character as the MC. Like you Sam grew on me as the book went on mainly because she improved a lot. I didn’t mind the repetition but I can see exactly how it bothered you.
    Great review 🙂

    • Thank you Trish! 🙂 I have to start rating the books I review in the blog. I should have thought about that earlier. Well, for me this was a 3,5 starts book, just because I did felt bored and annoyed during half of it. I really liked the risks LO took writing Sam’s character, though. Actually, I loved it, despite all the nerves these girls touched. If the book wasn’t about these characters, I probably wouldn’t have liked it at all and the “lesson” wouldn’t be so powerful and strong. You can learn a lot from the book. Even if you’re one of those kids who were bullied and you’re carrying some hatred inside of you towards your high school mean colleagues, this book will also help you understand that they weren’t the more happy or better than you, after all. I wasn’t expecting to want to read more books from LO, but now I know that I’ll have to read Delirium. 🙂

  3. I definitely can’t help you write short and to the point reviews. I always try to organize my reviews, but they definitely end up being long and rambly! Anyways, while I’m usually more into dystopia and fantasy, I actually have been more attracted to reading this book by Lauren Oliver over Delirium. I’m not sure why! I guess maybe because I like reading about death in books, as bad as that sounds? And I do like that the MC is a bit of a bully because you’re right, we usually don’t get that. Of course, I’m sad to hear the predictability and the fact that it made you incredibly BORED at parts. So I’m not sure what to think. I’m still interested in it, but am thinking I’ll pry never get my hands on it since there’s so many more books to get that people are more excited about. It just makes me wonder if I should read Delirium instead if I want to read something by this author. Hmmm…

    • I also like to read about death in books, which is why I was happy to read Before I Fall instead of Delirium.
      I think you should give this book a chance, Asti! I’m giving it a 3,5 stars (note to self: add star rates to your reviews Pat!), which to me is a book that was not perfect, but that I liked and recommend. What I found predictable and somewhat boring might be interesting to you. You might see it as part of Sam’s journey and you might actually like it! So, don’t discard the book only because I felt bored at parts, which was mostly at the beginning, when I was hating the characters and, well, nothing too interesting was going on for me. From the several YA’s I’ve read (which aren’t that many, to tell you the truth, but still…) this is one of the few I really liked to read, because of the message and all the things it makes you think about. And also for the MC, despite all the hate/sympathetic/”oh, ok…I like you after all” feelings towards Sam and her friends. I do think you’ll like it more than I did, so give it a chance! 🙂

      • Haha okay! I’ll leave it on my wishlist. Not sure when I’ll get around to it cause you know, I always have tons of books to read (which is pry why I should really never request ARCs), but I’ll keep it in mind!

  4. I had no idea the MC was actually a mean popular girl so this has peaked my interest in the book. I can see why it would be predictable but I do love the message Oliver is trying to send across. We might not think about it every single day and every single moment in our lives but we’re not immortal and any day, any second all of this could end without us even knowing. We’ve just got to appreciate and be grateful for what we have.

    • Hi Charlotte!
      Yes, the book is worth it for the message alone. I think that what we can learn from the MC’s journey surpasses all the predictability and boredom that I felt while reading. And, of course, having a mean girl as an MC is really interesting, specially because LO really made her human and, at the end, I actually liked her. Do tell me when you read it! I look forward to read your review. 🙂 And thanks for stopping by!

  5. Definitely with you on the hype of Delirium and Lauren Oliver – I considered buying this book several times simply because of it, though I haven’t read Delirium (which I do own) yet so I don’t even know if I’d like her writing! blah hype!

    I think it’s a good sign that the book gave you a lot of feelings. If it’s one I actually disliked, there are two emotions: anger and frustration. I see that frustration is on your list, so maybe the book won’t be considered the best thing since sliced pie, but it’s always good to have that additional motivation. Plus, that you could relate to and take the message from the book is a good sign too I think ;).

    I was/am one of the nerdy smart girls too, so the idea of the mean girl as the main character – while refreshing, I do agree with you there; too many of the same types these days – is kind of off-putting to me for the same reasons about the shallowness and stupidity. It’s nice that you were able to feel sorry for Sam within those last two chapters, but part of what kept me from buying the book is thinking that I won’t feel anything for her at all.

    Also the repetition. I heard about that too, and I could see myself getting super bored by that aspect too. As is, I hate when there are those “narration scenes” when the MC thinks over everything that’s happened in the past couple of days, so yikes to the 7 chapters of the same day and having few changes in the beginning.

    ” It reminded me that not long ago I said to myself that I was going to be a better human being, and I still have a lot to do to reach my goal.” <– Me too.

    And hey, I love long reviews. I always write them, and I like it when reviews are thorough as yours obviously is :).

    • Hi Christina! Thank you for stopping by! 🙂
      Well, from what you tell me, the repetition will definitely be an issue when you read this book. Sam does spend a considerable amount of time thinking about what she has done and what she can do to change her past actions. It gets worse when her first attempts are frustrated, so we start yet another day/chapter thinking “ok…here we go again! see if this time you get it right, Sam.”
      I must confess that I was really hating Sam and part of me felt bad about it. While my mean self was say “come on…she brought this upon herself”, with time I felt sympathetic towards her, because things aren’t always black & white and Sam’s got a lot of grey zones about her. At some point I just couldn’t bring myself to keep judging her.
      It’s just like you said… it “won’t be considered the best thing since sliced pie”, though the theme of the book makes it worth it. If you think these things might bother you, read Delirium first. I’m still curious about it, so I’ll be also looking forward to read your review! 🙂

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