Review: Before I fall by Lauren Oliver

19 December, 2011 Reviews 8 comments

Review: Before I fall by Lauren OliverBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Series: Standalone
Published by HarperCollins Children's Books on March 2nd 2010
Pages: 496
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

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.

I have to confess something before I write this review.  This book is about a teenager, Sam, who is a Mean Girl who trips into Groundhog Day world and is set on a path to redemption.  My confession is that I used to be a girl almost exactly like Sam.

Shallow, egotistical and worst of all – mean.  Really, really mean.

I’ve commented before on the fact that I was a terrible teenager.  My parents did not so much try to raise me through these years.  More like they’re tried to survive me.  In this book, Sam comes to the final realization that she is a bitch.  I know I related to this book more perhaps than some other readers would because I had to come to my own realization about that.  It is a strange and aggravatingly unsettling experience to wake up and realize the world neither revolves around you, nor should it, because you are a horrible person.  Yet, that’s nothing compared to living your teenage years on the receiving end of bullshit people like me dished out to other people.

I can imagine growing up with that kind of experience would make you quite unsympathetic to Sam.  But Sam is on a path and a journey.  Oliver doesn’t withhold on characterization. Every petty, mean, shallow act and thought is shamelessly paraded here. I loved the cast and the complicated relationships they all had.  I loved Sam and Kent’s relationship as well as Sam and Lindsey’s relationship.  Most of the people in this book felt like people I’d known or met in real life.

The writing worked well for this novel.  Never too flowery or explanatory but rather serving the purpose of translating complicated thoughts and feeling to the reader without being burdensome or boring.

Every time I felt Sam was a little too…

Annoying Facebook Girl

Oliver managed to turn it around and make her…

rainbow dash

I think it took a lot of courage to write Sam’s characterization as she did.  A lot of YA fiction depicts the Perfect Female ala Bella Swan. Where character flaws amount to being clumsy and everyone they ever meet thinks they’re amazing and mature and wise beyond their years.  (Note: Zoe Redbird, no, you are not.)

My only complaint about the book is in the spoiler down below.  Basically, I loved it, I connected to it.   I felt like the themes were handled in a believable, realistic way.

I guess this book made me melancholy.  I think about Juliet Sykes and remember that I once had my own Juliet Sykes.  I wish I could go back in time and change that.  I wish I could somehow make amends to her.  Hell, I wish I could even remember her real name and not just all the disgusting nicknames we gave her.  I wish I’d been the kind of teenager I could be proud of.  Yet this book made me glad that I did change, that I have tomorrow to keep trying and learning and growing.  It makes me happy to think that even I deserved a chance at redemption and to choose a different way to live my life.

Most of all, this book makes me really bloody happy that I’m an adult now and that I never, ever, have to go back.  Ever.


Perhaps the only real critique I could give of the book is this:

Do you remember that scene from Shakespeare in Love when Ben Affleck’s Ned Alleyn is talking to Shakespeare about the ending of Romeo and Juliet and he says, “But there’s a scene missing between marriage and death.”

And in case you skipped school for the Obvious lesson in your Obvious class, he’s talking about: boning.

dinosaur bones boning

It’s this but it’s not this.  If you know what I mean…

Now I’m not actually saying that I wanted Sam and Kent to bone but I felt there needed to be more to the final part of the book than just a few vague kisses and a goodbye.  I mean, poor Kent, right?  he wakes up one day and, out of the blue, the girl he’s in love with decides to give him a break and actually kiss him.  Then she tells him that he’s the best thing that ever happened to her.  Then she dies.

Dawson crying

At least give the poor guy a happy ending… of sorts.

Kat Kennedy

Kat Kennedy

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
Kat Kennedy is a book reviewer and aspiring author in the Young Adult genre. She reviews critically but humorously and get super excited about great books. Find her on GoodReads.
Kat Kennedy

8 Responses to “Review: Before I fall by Lauren Oliver”

  1. Becca Christiansen

    I agree with you about the spoiler. A great, gritty, passionate… ending… would have been perfect for this book. Plus I loved Kent. So much. In a sea of boring YA love interests, I remember him even after more than a year since reading this book. That's a good sign.

  2. Charliee

    It's strange. I've only read a few of your reviews and already I've taken an instant liking to you. It's unbelievably hard to imagine you as a Mean Girl. I know a LOT of girls like that at my school and most of them pick on me from time to time, but when I hold my ground, they leave me alone. Normally. But i've seen girls who simply can't come to school anymore because they feel so bad about themselves because of the comments that those bitches make. And the main reason why they insult me, is because I try and defend those girls. But after reading your review, i'm starting to hate them a notch less. I honestly hope that they come to the realisation that you did. If they actually regret, later in life, about being so horrid, then maybe I won't see them as such evil people. So, I guess thanks for giving me a new perspective on life. Oh, and i'm glad you're never going back to that.

  3. CuddleBug

    I wasn't as mean as the girls in this book. But it's no excuse. I'm glad you stand up for yourself and others. Look, keep doing it. You have no idea what it's like to look back on your life and be disgusted with the person you are. I wish so badly I'd been a teenager like you. Just don't feel too sorry for those girls. They deserve the trouble of a difficult wake up call.

  4. Melissa Chambers

    Thanks for the review. Just added this to my TBR list. I love these types of heroines for the same reason you are saying – they are a breath of fresh air against the “wise beyond their years” types. Those sorts of heroines almost feel like author intrusion to me. I love a protagonist who can be redeemed! Thanks for the rec!

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