My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
What would you do if you had only one day to live? This is the question Samantha Kingston must face in Before I Fall, a thought-provoking young adult novel.
The first time around, Sam has no idea that Friday 12 February is the last day of her life, so she spends it the same way as any other day: hanging out with her popular friends and her ‘perfect’ boyfriend, giving little thought to the less fortunate people they step on along the way. But that evening, Sam is in a car accident with her three best friends, an accident that takes her life.
Here’s the weird part: she still wakes up the next morning. But it’s not tomorrow; it’s today, for the second time. Is it just a serious case of de ja vu, or is it a second chance?
In a teenage version of Groundhog Day, Sam is forced to re-live her last day over and over again, until she realises the power of her choices and acknowledges the impact they have not only on her life, but on those around her.
This novel prompted many strong emotions from me. As Sam went about her normal high school day, feelings of discontent and resentment stirred within me and my first reaction was, ‘I really don’t like this girl’. From what I can tell, this was Lauren Oliver’s intention. Oliver has done an extraordinary job of depicting the psyche of a girl who believes she is better than everyone else, purely because she is popular. Although Sam’s internal monologue made me seethe, it seemed very realistic and I admire that Oliver had the courage to be so blunt and honest in her narrative – the story is more believable for it.
Similarly, I felt that the awakening of Sam’s conscience after death was handled extremely well. The changes in her attitudes and behaviour were introduced gradually, which made them more credible and allowed the reader to join Sam on her emotional journey.
Sam was very believable to me, as was Lindsay, the leader of the bitch pack. I found Sam’s other two best friends, Ally and Ellody, less well developed and felt they could have merged into one character without affecting the story much. Rob, Sam’s boyfriend, was very clear in my mind and reminded me of some of the boys I went to high school with (inexplicably popular despite Neanderthal tendencies). Meanwhile, Kent, Sam’s childhood friend melted my heart with his genuineness and offbeat mannerisms.
Would I recommend it?
Definitely, but only to those interested in high school-centric plot lines, because this novel is the epitome of high school. I highly recommend it to teens as I think it could help them to identify – and maybe even challenge – the nonsensical conventions, relationships and hierarchies that exist within their own school (I doubt there’s a high school without them!).
What’s your opinion?
Have you read Before I Fall? If so, what did you think? From what I’ve seen on Good Reads, this book has polarised readers. Do you completely disagree with my opinion? Please let me know – I’m always up for a good debate!