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Before I Fall

They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.

What if you only had 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 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. Living the last day of her life seven times during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.”

I have seriously mixed feelings about Before I Fall. On the one hand, the premise is very interesting (though not exactly original) and Lauren Oliver is a pretty good writer; on the other, I absolutely hated the characters. Loathed them. I realize that characters don’t always have to be super likable, but I do like having a main character and supporting characters who I can at least understand and sympathize with a bit. Samantha and her group of friends are basically just evil witches (replace “w” with “b” for a more accurate description). They make fun of the unpopular kids, like to jerk people around, and seem to forget that just two years ago, they were sophomores. Also, Samantha used to be at the bottom of the social ladder; now she’s at the top, but she doesn’t seem to remember where she was before and enjoys making fun of people less fortunate than her. Still, she is an interesting character, and I suppose it was kind of refreshing to read into the mind of a really nasty person. 

I did consider putting the book down because I hated the characters so much, but ultimately I read all of it, because it was really gripping, and it did suck me in (although the first few days were kind of uninteresting). Before I Fall is all about your choices and how they can have consequences, both big and small. I wanted some explanation for the weird things happening to Samantha, and I wanted to see whether she could cheat the thing by not going to the party or whatever (although obviously, I did know that that wasn’t going to work).

Some of Samantha’s friends were even worse than she was. They’re so nasty to people, like Juliet Sykes, and when something happens that could have been because of them, they don’t care. Lindsay in particular was awful; with Samantha you sometimes get these flashes of humanity, but Lindsay just seemed to be totally nasty and indifferent to everyone else’s feelings. 

I feel like there are so many unrealistic portrayals out there of what high school is like. My high school, at least, is mostly unlike the school Samantha goes too, with people smoking weed in the bathrooms and a very strict social order. I mean, it’s far from a great place, but people are actually pretty nice generally at my school (if dimwitted), and I find it kind of unrealistic that a school like this would actually exist. I mean, maybe they do, but probably most of the high schools in America aren’t like this. I really don’t know, but far too many YA books have nasty, nasty high school atmospheres, something I’ve never experienced. The sex and the drinking and the drugs also made me really uneasy; it seemed a bit over the top, at least to me. I can deal with that sort of stuff, but a lot of it seemed kind of unnecessary, as if Lauren Oliver was trying too hard to prove a point. This was her first novel, so I suppose she was still experimenting. 

I liked Before I Fall okay, but I can’t say that I really enjoyed it, due to the awful, awful characters and the portrayal of high school. Still, the plot idea was cool, and the book did draw me in, despite my dislike of many aspects. You’ve got to give Lauren Oliver credit for that. 

470 pages. 

Rating: ***

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