For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—"Cupid Day"—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.
However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam 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 ever imagined.
I stepped out of my comfort zone to review Before I Fall.
First: I have certain 'rules' about reading and reviewing 'Now a Major Motion Picture' or overly popular books at the height of their popularity. Too much drama if I'm not instantly converted to fandom. I don't lie in my reviews.
Second: My daughter gave me that look when I said I was going to review it. I asked about the look and was answered with a shrug and this explanation: "I don't think you won't like it." What can I say? In my house we read, A LOT. My kids know my tastes can be fickle and a single word can tank a book. lol.
So needless to say I had some reservations when I started. I didn't go in thinking 'I'm going to hate this', but I was worried I was going to be disappointed. Glad to report I think the book definitely deserves it's popularity.
As for those lucky souls who spoilers don;t spoil a book for them... Read on.
***End Spoiler Alert***
I've read A LOT of books. I take pride in the fact that I can usually call how a books going to end. I enjoy being right. Who doesn't? I enjoyed being surprised when I'm not. What's the saying? It's about the journey, not the destination. Anyway. From the first chapter I just knew how Before I Fall was going to end. Spoiler...I was right. But what a hell of a ride getting there. By the second and third chapter I didn't want to be right, I knew I wasn't, but oh I wished I was. At the end... I can understand as someone who has read a lot and lived a lot, there wasn't any other ending the story truly deserved. Yes, there obviously are ALWAYS other endings. But this one...if the author had chosen to change it I think it would have been an insult to the rest of the book. Please forgive me. I am trying to be vague. Probably not doing as well as I think I am. But hey, I warned you.
One of the biggest problems I have with YA novels is that the teenagers are either too old for their age, too dumb for their age, or just really annoying. The reason this is the biggest problem for me is because I've read books where the characters aren't stereotypes. Where they actually sound like teenagers and not how adults feel teenagers sound. So I know it can be done. When it isn't it makes me sad. Oliver captured that teenage self absorption. That world is could end over nothing drama. That fear of not being in the in crowd. That even though they know the wrong step could make them fall and how horrible that would be it doesn't prevent them from being cruel and lashing out at those under them. The way teenagers can live life as if it's never going to end, yet at the same time as if it were their last night on earth. She captured that youth and make the reader a part of it.
I will give that by the end of the book Sam has had some realizations that the average person doesn't have until they are well out of their teens. By the end Sam does sound older than she is. In her defense by that point she has relived the same day way more than once. She's seen the different paths different choices lead down. She sees her actions from the outside of her clique. She realizes that the people outside of her social tier are so much more than just flat faces that provide a backdrop for the drama of the popular. She has also died. Repeatedly. So her voice has changed by the end of the book. Become older, wiser... But the author has given very good reasons for her characters growth.
She learns that she really is a bitch. So is Lindsay. So is Ally. So is Elody. But they, and those around them, are also so much more.... So VERY much more than just the personas they present to the world. Sam learns she loves them. All of them. The flaws as well as the strengths.
The copy I read had 'extras'. (So get that copy, the extras oh the extras!) In those extras there is a letter from the author. She makes the comment that in the beginning Sam is unlikable and that it was intentional. I was surprised because I never disliked her. I mean I wasn't in love with her. Yeah, she and her friends were bitches. But they were a product of their environment. They know their position in their social grouping gives them power and invincibility. Who doesn't want that? They also know that if they don't follow certain unwritten rules they can easily fall, and it's a long way down. I think if I read this book 20 years ago I probably would have hated her and her girls with an unholy passion and been quite satisfied when she died repeatedly. *shrug* Understanding comes easier with age? lol
But I also think that I still would have enjoyed Before I Fall just as much 20 years ago as I did 2 days ago. Her death at the beginning of the book to me now is more just a shame. I have to agree with her that nothing she had done in her life so far was bad enough for her to deserve to die. Much less the way she did the first two times.
What those long rambling paragraphs were trying to say is that Olivers book is amazing. She pulls you in and doesn't let go. Even after you've closed the book. Her supporting characters are simple line drawings that, as she lifts and turns them through the pages expand and change. Til suddenly you realize they're not a few strokes but actually intricate beautiful multi-dimensional portraits. Giving the illusion of growth even though only Sam actually has the time and experiences to actually do so.
Yes, there are definitely parts that break your heart. But there are parts that make you laugh out loud as well. Before I Fall is a beautiful reminder that there's so much more to people than what you see.
I definitely give Before I Fall 5 stars. I definitely recommend it. I definitely recommend you get a copy with bonus content. lol. Lastly I definitely recommend you have the tissues ready BEFORE you start reading. You'll need them well before the last page.
I 'borrowed', read it got left in my room, Before I Fall from my daughter and decided to use it for the A to Z Challenge 2017.