Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Summary: “With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today’s foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person’s life can affect so many others.
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.” (Summary found on Goodreads).
“So many things become beautiful when you really look.”
I was planning on writing an angry review cataloguing how much I hated this book, how all of the characters are selfish and horrible and bullies, but something changed when I finished it. Something changed when I hit the last chapter and last few pages and understood what had happened. I had witnessed some of the best character development I have ever read. Not to mention, this book literally made me cry, which is not common.
Before I Fall is something close to a masterpiece. Close. It’s not one, and could probably use some fixing in parts, but it’s close enough to render me speechless for a few minutes after finishing. I can’t say much about the ending, just that I didn’t see it coming, but understood it completely. There was some symbolism too and it was beautiful.
This book isn’t about Sam, interestingly. I think it’s about Juliet. I think it’s about anybody Sam and her friends ever bullied and treated horribly for no reason whatsoever. And I also think that it’s meant to show what could have happened to Sam herself as she was initially a girl that was bullied (“what’s red and white and weird all over?”). I’ve never read a book so impactful that’s about bullying and suicide. This hit me.
I’m not going to lie, I hated this book originally. I hated Sam and Lindsay and Elody and Ally. They were popular, which gave them rights to do whatever they wanted, no matter how crude or crass. I think I was supposed to hate them and boy did I. I also hated Oliver’s constant use of “if you know what I mean”. I don’t like being pulled into the story in the way that I’m having a conversation with the character, it’s disconcerting. Besides, how often do I know what she means?
Anyway, I couldn’t bring myself to give this five stars because it took until the last chapter for me to really understand this book. It was also way too long. Contemporaries, no matter the fantasy elements, should never be longer than 350 pages. 470 was far too much and, while I was hooked the whole time, some parts definitely could have been cut out.
I highly recommend this book and it’s going to take a lot to stop me from throwing it at nearly everybody I know. Don’t fear if you hate the characters–you’re supposed to. They’re disgusting, but the character development, that’s the important part.
“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”