Published: March 2nd 2010 by HarperCollins
Details: Paperback, 470 pages
My Rating: 5/5
A cross between Mean Girls and Groundhog Day, this story is about popular and shallow Sam who after an accident gets to relive that same day over and over again, and learns to reevaluate her life and actions. Amazingly complex story, wonderfully fleshed out and real characters, and an ending that took my breath away. Simply put, a MUST READ!
My Full Review:
Before I Fall is the debut novel by Lauren Oliver, a contemporary novel in the same vein as Alice Seabold’s The Lovely Bones, which I devoured a few years ago. It had received amazing reviews of course. Still I was totally and utterly unprepared for the emotional rollercoaster ride that this book was about to take me on.
Only one chapter in though, I knew I was in for something great because it captured me straight away. You know how it is when you suddenly start to curse every single thing you have planned in the next couple of nights (whether that be after work drinks, movie-dates or dinner with friends), because these plans have now turned into giant OBSTACLES between you and your book. Me this weekend: Who cares about the premier of Woody Allen’s latest film, all I want to do is go home and read my book!
Well, you get my drift. That’s how I felt, from the very FIRST chapter. So yep, the pull in this one is strong. Really really strong.
What then made it so special?
One major reason was the realness of it all. Oliver has captured the very essence of being a young adult here. I don’t think I’ve ever read about high school kids that felt as REAL as in this book, the insecurities, the clicks of best friends, the bullying, the school hierarchy, the do’s and dont’s in school. The coincidence that one person rises in popularity and someone else plummets to the bottom. Lauren Oliver took me on a ride that essentially transported me back into highschool, not always a pleasant experience. We all know how awkward those high school years were.
The main character Sam is one of the most popular girls in school and a bitch. Which, to tell you the truth, I found a refreshing change from those shy, nice, never-been-noticed-before-but-beautiful heroines that I’ve read about lately. Instead Sam is a shallow bully, stemming from fears and insecurities, who on that fateful first day worries mostly about how many popularity roses she’ll get on Cupid Day in school. Her click of best friends reminds me of Mean Girls with Sam’s best friend Lindsay as the bullying leader and queen of school. What I liked though is that none of these girls felt like caricatures but were fully fleshed characters, that despite all their flaws and mistakes hade me caring for them. Well, apart from Lindsay who was, and stayed, a bitch.
After the accident on that first day, the story turns into Groundhog Day. That is, Sam keeps reliving the same day over and over again, learning how the actions of her and her friends have affected others. You might think that repeating the same day would get boring, but fear not! As Sam is looking for the way out of her one-day-repeat experience, you are wondering just as much as her, what exactly she has to do? Lauren Oliver cleverly serves us clues here and there to how all the events of that day link together. It’s like watching a real life puzzle come together and it had me transfixed.
I also loved watching Sam change. As you know, she starts out as a bitch but gradually becomes a less selfish person, someone who reflects upon her actions and who wonders if the price of popularity really is worth it. The ending is open-ended but beautiful, and very fitting to the story. Guaranteed to make you cry.
In short, this is one of these books that will have you thinking about it long after you’ve turned the last page. Simply beautiful. I cannot recommend it enough!