Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Monday, March 8, 2010

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

They say that just before you die
your life flashes before your eyes,
but that's not how it happened for me.

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—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

I read the author's introduction for the First Look Club at Barnes & Noble where she mentioned that she intended for her audience to dislike the characters in the early chapters. She did her job well because I didn't care for Sam and her friends in the beginning. In fact there were members of the club who considered not continuing the book because of the girls' very bad behavior. But I could not put it down. Lauren Oliver did exactly what she had intended in that first chapter. She introduced us to Sam and her friends Elody, Ally and their "leader" Lindsay, senior girls at Thomas Jefferson High School. They are popular, pretty and selfish snobs who get away with anything and everything.

Sam tells her story from the moment she wakes up on Friday, February 12th. She shares all of the details of her day in school, the afternoon at Ally's house and the evening at a party. Since it's Cupid's Day, an early Valentine celebration, emotions are running high and Sam mentions a variety of interactions that occur that day. She and her friends are quite entertained when other students have hurt feelings and are more concerned with what they will be wearing to the party. Not all goes as planned and their irresponsible behavior leads to a tragedy. As Sam herself reveals in the first sentence of the prologue she is killed in that accident. And she wakes up the next morning to repeat February 12 all over again.

Sam is aware that it's the same day but it doesn't appear that anyone else is. Through her shock and confusion she muddles through the day and attempts to prevent her death. Some things can be changed but as the days go by she starts to realize that she may be focusing on the wrong things and the wrong people. Sam begins to see how her actions have affected and often hurt others. She tries to make changes throughout the day but it doesn't go as planned.

Lauren Oliver takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery and transformation. I was fascinated with her insight and attention to detail. With each chapter Sam's changes had a ripple affect on others and the results would show up all throughout the book. A mention of something that appeared insignificant would often come to have great meaning later on. I would leaf back through the pages to find out how something had happened on a previous day so I could compare. It was like solving a puzzle, searching for clues. The characters were interesting and well developed. I was curious to know more about them and what led them to this day. In the first chapter it was easy to categorize everyone as the typical cliches - popular, jock, nerd, wallflower, but the first impressions were very deceiving. As the pages went by more layers were revealed.

It's likely you will think about the way you treat people after you finish the story. What mistakes would you correct if given the chance? This is a book that I will definitely be reading again. Congratulations to Lauren Oliver for what is sure to be a very successful debut novel.

Thank you to Barnes & Noble First Look Club for a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.

Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: 3/2/10
Pages: 480
Price/format: $17.99/hardcover
Type: YA fiction
Ages: 14 up


  1. I'll have to remember that I'm not supposed to like the characters at first when I read this. It sounds so good.

  2. I do try to pass on most YA, but this one sounds too good to pass up. Groundhog Day-ish, but meaningful. Great review!

  3. I read a review of this book some time back and totally loved this idea. Thanks for mentioning that I'm not supposed to love the characters! I'll have to check this one out!


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