Before I Fall (Lauren Oliver)

Before I Fall Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: "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've heard this book disparaged as a cross between Groundhog Day and Mean Girls, but I have to say - I didn't find that to be the case at all. True, there are some common elements (the re-doing of days, the fact that a popular girl is the main character), but to dismiss Before I Fall that easily is to do it a disservice.

Before I Fall is about a girl. An ordinary girl, a nothing-too-special girl, making nothing-too-special choices. To be perfectly honest, I found this subject matter extremely refreshing after so much YA paranormally themed books. (Though I love those as well.) There is a certain simplicity about Samantha, about the way she thinks of things. She isn't all-knowing, or all-sacrificing - there are certainly things she could do better. But at its heart, despite (or because of) Samantha's ordinariness, this book is a beautifully rendered coming-of-age/self-realization story. The twist, of course, is that while Samantha is coming to understand herself, anything she learns will in some sense come to nothing, as she has already died.

I thought Samantha's story was touching, beautiful, and so real. Samantha's teenage-girl voice never wavers even as she contemplates her own death and the perplexing bizarreness of her circumstances, and it is this realness that makes the underlying gravity all the more affecting. I don't think this book missed a beat, and I'd recommend it to any readers of YA realistic fiction who'd like some gravity in their lives.

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