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.
Before I Fall is a breathtaking, heartbreaking story of loss, love and finding yourself. It’s one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page. It draws you in and keeps you reading, keeps you invested in the characters and involved in the plot. It’s just amazing.
That being said, I want to let it be known up front that I probably had a different reaction to reading this book than most. My 16 year-old brother died two years ago in a manner similar to Samantha Kingston, and there was a sentence near the end of the first chapter that had me in tears (sad ones) and wondering if I wanted to keep reading. I did, though, and I’m glad. That sentence? Was transformed by the end of the epilogue, and it had me in tears for an entirely different reason – a more hopeful reason. Despite the subject matter of death, and the entire rollercoaster ride of emotions it put me through, I’m so amazed at this book.
Samantha Kingston dies at the end of the day on February 12, a Friday, while leaving for home from a party. She wakes up the next day – and it’s February 12. She proceeds to live through her last day seven times, and over the course of those days she comes to realize numerous things about herself, her friends and the people she goes to school with, all in the process of trying to change her own ending.
Sam is such a complex character. She’s incredibly realistic in her thought processes and actions. She’s one of the popular kids at school – she can have whatever she wants, whenever she wants, and she thinks nothing of the people she might hurt, tease and belittle on the way. She’s a person I would never have been friends with in high school. Throughout the course of the novel, though, Sam changes. The experience she goes through makes her take a long, hard look at how she and her friends treat others and why they do. All these revelations flow smoothly and believably (Sam takes one of her days to act out and be as scandelous as possible – I probably would have done the same if I knew it would all be reset the next morning) and wind into a plot that is intense and captivating.
The idea of a time-loop isn’t that unique, it’s been done before (Groundhog Day and Stargate: SG1 jump to mind), but Lauren Oliver makes it work and throws her own unique voice into the genre (can time-loop even be considered a genre?). I really enjoyed Lauren’s writing style, and the formating. Her sentences flowed well and kept an even pace throughout the book. Her descriptions and settings were vivid and it really felt like you were seeing everything through a Sam filter. Each day is separated into its own chapter, meaning there’s only seven chapters – plus prologue and epilogue – split into smaller parts by headers. It takes a while to finish a chapter, but the smaller divisions within each leave plenty of places to stop and take a break and not feel like you’re leaving in the middle.
I wasn’t too happy to see the instances of drinking and driving, but it wasn’t glorified and played a part in the overall plot of the book. There are depictions of drugs, suicide (non-graphic) and some sexuality (no actual sex), but it’s nothing anyone over the age of 12 hasn’t read/seen/heard before. Before I Fall is an amazing story and a great debut novel. Despite my early upset, I ended up loving the book.
Before I Fall is part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge