Reading this book was a long time coming. First of all, it came out way back in 2010 (I read it five years later, I know, the shame) and since it gained immense popularity Oliver’s career skyrocketed with Delirium, a dystopean YA trilogy about a society with no love, a novel for middle grade and adults, as well as other YA contemporaries like Before I Fall – most recently, Vanishing girls. Delirium and Vanishing Girls are both some of my favorite books (check out my review for Vanishing Girls here https://mollyeyablog.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/vanishing-girls-lauren-oliver/) so naturally, her Oliver’s highly acclaimed debut and her other contemporary novel (Panic, which I sadly have not read yet), came onto my list. Now that I finally have read Before I Fall, I can’t believe I waited so long. It is a Young Adult contemporary with an unrealistic twist, very recommended to anyone who wants a good story, but mainly for fans of If I Stay by Gayle Forman and Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout. It gets ten stars.
Summary (Goodreads): 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.
Non spoiler review – Before I fall had it all. It was thought provoking, the characters were intriguing and flawed, the story was beautiful, the plot itself having fun moments that involve typical teenage scenarios (popularity, friend and boyfriend drama, etc.) as well as deep exploration of the ways we can live our life, even containing shocking reveals that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Before I Fall is as dramatic as it is hilarious. As sad as it is happy. The characters are as horrible as they are sweet and relatable. The struggles are real, even if they’re presented in an almost paranormal way. It’s certainly one of my new favorites, and I think it’s safe to say that if you haven’t read it yet it will be one of yours too.
Spoiler review –
I think I’ll start with the ending since it was, as it often is and very well should be, the most powerful, heartbreaking, and beautiful part of the entire novel. Sam saves Juliette by pushing her out of the way and dying in her place. I read a review on goodreads where someone said she “threw the book at her husband and demanded he rewrite the ending”. I have never disagreed more,the ending should not be touched. It is exactly what needed to happen, the perfect end to Sam’s Journey. Sam was never meant to live. She died that night in the car crash and that’s that. Although it’s unclear whether her friends and family will remember Sam’s first last day or her last, but nonetheless Sam was meant to die. I believe that Sam lived that day so many times so she could see what kind of person she was before she moved on, and how she could correct a wrong. Sam wasn’t going to correct that wrong until she saved Juliette, and then she would move on. I don’t think she was ever going to survive the last day. She fixed what she needed to fix and now she was ready to go, and as heartbreaking as that is it is also so beautiful that she is able to correct her biggest wrong and finally move on as she was meant to. Reliving the same day over and over is a very miserable existence if you ask me, and even though she never made it to Saturday, she made it to the place she was meant to go and as the person she was meant to be.
It is incredible to compare first day Sam to last day Sam. During her first last day she was still popular girl Sam who only cared about staying on top, having fun with her friends and sleeping with her boyfriend. She was mean to Kent and was horrible to Juliette. By the last day, she still cared about her friends, which I think is so good. It is very important to show that friendship doesn’t have to be superficial if you really care about the people around you, and Sam made it very clear that she does love her friends. She does, however, understand that she doesn’t even like her boyfriend anymore and she doesn’t need to go out and party, she can have fun elsewhere (as seen on the third night when she and her friends stayed in). She also realized that someone can still be a great person even if they’re not cool, and what really isn’t cool is to be mean to people. Anna is someone that in another life she could have been friends with. Kent is someone she loved. I don’t know if she would have ever liked Juliette, but that’s okay. She never even hated her, she just thought the way she was treating her was the “cool” thing to do. By the last day she only cares about what she thinks of herself, and that’s the reason she was able to save Juliette. Sam’s change wasn’t something that could have occurred in any less than seven days, each step was an important change in who she was and changed her just a little bit, as well as gave her enough courage for what she needed to do all along. I admire new Sam, even though I hated the old one. Sam is real, and we all have a little bit of Sam’s struggles, which is part of what makes this book sorelatable. Our transition to maturity may not happen in a surreal experience such as Sam’s, but it happens to all of us nonetheless.