Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins on March 2, 2010
Genre(s): fiction, contemporary, young adult
Format & Pages: hardcover, 490
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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 picked up Before I Fall from my library after having seen the movie. Normally, like any other book lover, I try to read a book before seeing the movie, but I just didn’t have the time to do so this time around.
My point is: 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 in it, let it slide like coins through your 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.
Overall, I really liked the way this book was written. Oliver’s writing was evocative enough to create atmosphere but clear and concise enough to make a point without being overly flowery. I also liked the use of repetition without it being too redundant. In addition, one of the themes explored is the butterfly effect, where one small change somewhere can cause larger effects that you wouldn’t expect elsewhere, also helped to keep a story of someone living the same day over and over from being too repetitive. Other themes in this novel I particularly liked were those of redemption and loving people as they are, and seeing the way Sam matures slowly throughout her repeated days was heartening.
That all being said, I did have some issues with this book. To start with, the emphasis on teenage drinking and sex was WAY too much for me. It seemed too over the top and in your face for my taste. Also, I wanted more explanation as to why Sam relives this day and also more on why the final one is her “right” answer and the way out of it. This was a quick read especially given the length of nearly 500 pages, but given that length, I feel that more depth could have been added to make it more thought provoking.
The movie version actually follows the plot of the novel very closely, with some small differences, and some of the more explicit scenes edited out as well (I assume to get down to the PG-13 rating). Ultimately, even though I did enjoy the book, I have to recommend the movie first, especially given that the intended audience for this story is young adults or teenagers.