Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Finished: December 16, 2011

Pages: 470

Publisher: HarperTeen

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life? Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing. 

Quote: “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.”

Thoughts: Every now and then a book will come along that reminds me of the fine line between a favorite book and one that is just a great read. Sometimes I struggle with what shelves to place a book on when I’m done with it. Was it a favorite? I mean, it was so good, it must be, right? That’s not true though, is it? Before I Fall reminded me that the books that become your favorites are so much more than great, engaging and well written reads. They are the books that hold on to you long after you set them down, the books that resonate with you so much that you can’t stop thinking about them. Every book has the opportunity to become that for someone. That doesn’t mean the next person who picks it up will feel the same way. Everyone is a culmination of different experiences, no one is going to view any one book the same way, no one is going to feel it the same way. Sometimes though, a book comes along, and for you, it’s just right. It changes you in the most subtle of ways. I think that when the right book falls into our lap at the right time it’s one of the luckiest occurrences in the world. Before I Fall was one of those books for me.

I didn’t like the beginning of the book. I doubt that anyone did. The thing is, we weren’t supposed to. Samantha and her friends do not come across as people you would want to be friends with. They are cruel and unlikeable and the worst part is they don’t even seem to care. They’re bullies, plain and simple, and some of their actions can be hard to read. This is the point. You never really know when your time is up, are you going to like the person you are, when it’s your time to go? People so rarely get a second chance. Luckily for Sam, she gets seven chances to make things right.

This is a story that could easily have become a cliche piece, but in Oliver’s hands, it’s nothing short of beautiful. Her writing just melts and swirls in your brain like warm syrup and makes you feel. Her characters are believable and infuriatingly human and flawed. They could be you. They could be me. Sam thinks Starbucks coffee tastes like “dog pee strained through a trash bag” and so do I! See, we could be the same person. Sam doesn’t get to fix everything. You can’t make the world perfect, because not everything is black and white. It’s a credit to this story that Sam couldn’t fix it all, because not even seven chances can make the world perfect.

“And I guess that’s when it starts to hit me: the whole point is, you do what you can.”  

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone write romance better than Lauren Oliver. She did a great job in Delirium and she does an even better job here. Bittersweet, subtle, slow and heartfelt. Kent is a Nice Guy but not one who expects that he deserves something from Sam just because he’s nice. He wants to be her hero, as she was once for him, when they were children. Sweet Kent, with his eyes the color of grass. Sigh.

Sam’s friendship with Lindsay reminded me so closely of a friendship I had with a girl once. She was a lot like Lindsay. Loud, mean, selfish. She had her good points too, just like Lindsay, though it was hard for people to see them. Oliver manages to make her, perhaps not likeable, but understandable to a degree. She could have easily dumped her aside as the mean girl in the story who Sam had to learn to let go of but she didn’t. In my case, I had to let go of the friend, because her negatives started to outweigh the positives for me, but I think Oliver is right in showing that people aren’t usually just good or bad. They just aren’t meant to be your people.

I could go on about this book all day but I’d rather let you read it yourself.

Recommendation: Everyone.


Five out of Five Coffees

Before I Fall is on sale now in paperback. You can purchase it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, and other retailers.

Extras: Want to check out some other perspectives on Before I Fall? Find other reviews at The Spotted Mushroom and Imaginary Reads.

Looking for other books similar to this one? You might also like If I Stay, Looking for Alaska, and One Day.


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