Before I Fall | book review

Soooo I may or may not have just spent the entire day reading this book… I needed to, though, so I can see the film ASAP. Plus, today was the first full day of my Spring Break, and what better way to spend it than reading YA?

The Synopsis

“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.”

For Samantha Kingston, there is no tomorrow — she dies on February 12th, in the passenger seat of her best friend’s car as it careens off the road. It all feels like a dream, though, because she wakes up the next day – only it isn’t really the next day, it’s the morning of February 12th, again. And at the end of that day, she dies, again. And she keeps dying and reliving that day, over and over, until she realizes that something needs to change. Maybe she should break up with her boyfriend and makeout with the math teacher. Maybe she should tell-off her best friend. Maybe she should tell her parents how much she loves them. She may not be able to save her own life, but maybe she can change someone else’s before she dies.

The Plot

This book has been on my radar for a few years now, but I resisted reading it because I thought I would hate it. I typically don’t read novels about mean, popular girls in high school who torment people for fun. I don’t find that kind of stuff interesting, even if there is a moral or message behind the story. I do, however, tend to read books that are being turned into films, and the trailer for this one really caught my eye. It looked a lot better than the Goodreads description made it out to be. So I thought, hey, why not – let’s give it a chance. I’m so glad I did. Though this isn’t the first YA novel about these fantastical after-death experiences, it was still unique and just as interesting. The fact that you know the main character is going to die doesn’t ruin the story, even at the beginning — it makes it a thrilling read.

The main character, Sam, is kind of a bitch. The novel is told in first-person, and not only do we get to read what Sam’s thinking all the time, but her story is repeatedly interrupted with her own narration, addressing the reader, in italics. It’s pretty cool. Of course, you’re supposed to hate Sam in the beginning. Well, maybe not hate her, but at least dislike her. But she asks the reader if they think she really deserved to die. Was she really so awful? Are you, the reader, any different than she is? The book really makes you think. Of course you’re going to dislike the main characters in the beginning, because all you see them as are mean girls; but as the story progresses, you realize they’re just people, they make mistakes, and they’re just kids.

“If you were gonna die, how would you want it to be?”

Can you imagine dying, waking up, and repeating the entire day over again? And then you’re a minute away from dying, and you know it, but you have no way of stopping it? It’s terrifying. I love how Oliver was able to convey pure fear and terror throughout the story. It was really gripping. I was hooked from beginning to end, even though the first hundred pages or so were hard to read. It’s hard to read a book about people you can’t stand — you either grow to understand and love the characters, or you simply hate them until the end. Either way, if you do read it until the end, the author has succeeded. The book, though a bit predictable at times, was suspenseful and thrilling as hell. It was long, but worth it.

The Characters

Like I said, it’s really hard to read a book when the main character is so mean. I constantly wanted to scream at Sam throughout the story. The beginning was rough…she was downright cruel at times. I’m really glad she changed, though it sucks it had to be under these circumstances. I guess death really changes a person. I could tell, even at the beginning, that she wasn’t all bad — people never are. The world isn’t black and white. Though I can’t say I related to Sam a whole lot, I enjoyed her as a narrator and I did grow to like her.

Lindsay was a lot harder to like, and by the end of the novel, I’m not sure I could say I actually liked her. She was the leader of the bitch squad, and she was easily the cruelest. Though she was generally nice to her friends, she was downright awful to other people. It is hard to forgive that kind of attitude. Of course, she had bad things happen to her, like we all do, but that doesn’t excuse her behavior. It was hard to sympathize with her, but dammit, I tried.

Ally and Elody were slightly less terrible, but still, not sure I could say I liked them. Like I said, it was really hard for me to relate to anyone in the book. I didn’t have a core group of friends growing up, and in high school, though I had friends, I was barely there. My experience was nothing like this. So as a friend group, they were all really great together. They did a lot of cool things and truly loved each other. But at the same time, they were terrible towards other people. I think the only character I really liked was Kent. What a guy… my heart breaks! The characters were flushed out really well, and there are definitely a lot of morals to learn in this book. Like I said, Oliver really makes you think. She really hits home on bullying, and how it can lead to terrible things. She makes you realize that everybody can do good things, even the smallest thing, to help somebody out.

The Writing

This is not my first Lauren Oliver experience. The only other book I’ve read from her is Panic, which was mildly good. I have to say, this one blew it out of the water. This has to be her best work… it’s certainly a great book. I’m not sure if I’ll read any other’s, but this one will stick with me for a while.

As for the movie… I’m really bogged down with movies! A lot of really great films have been released lately; I’m trying to see as many as I can. I’m not sure when I’ll be seeing this adaptation, but I’m hoping to make my way to a theater soon. Cannot wait! Expect an adaptation review soon! And please, read this book!

Favorite Quote(s)

“It’s weird how much you can know about someone without knowing everything. You’d think someday you’d come to the end of it.”

“It’s funny, isn’t it? When you’re young you just want to be older, and then later you wish you could go back to being a kid.”

“Here’s another thing to remember: hope keeps you alive.”

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