Akhirnya’s CBR #32 Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (470p.)

This has been reviewed before, by Even Stevens, who really covers the plot pretty well.  As a recap, the book follows the death(s) of Samantha Kingston as she relives the same day over the span of a week.   That is in no way a spoiler, as Samantha lays out her situation pretty much on the first page.   Without knowing that she would somehow find a grisly end rather quickly, I might not have stuck with the book as Sam is far from sympathetic at the beginning of the novel.  She’s part of a clique of popular girls at her high school, self-absorbed with their own popularity and importance, no matter who it hurts.  As Sam finds out over the course of her week, the actions of herself and her friends do matter in ways they can’t even begin to imagine.

I read this book in less than twenty four hours and I think it was for the best.  I didn’t have a lot of time to question what was happening to Sam, and really, other than having a subconscious hard on for Groundhog Day, there isn’t much that can rationally explain what is happening to her anyway.  Sam was a realistic protagonist, with her reaction to replaying her last day over and over mimicking the stages of grief.  With her actions changing at each version of the day, the conversations she has and people she interacts with change.  Over the course of the novel, Sam finds out how interconnected everything is and gets the backs story for all the major events that converge towards her death.  Though she remains flawed to the end, this perspective changes her immensely and makes both the other Mean Girls and herself sympathetic.  Oliver makes it clear that on all counts, appearances can be deceiving.

It worked really well for me as a Young Adult Novel.  There are a lot of references to drinking, drugs, and sex, but the high school Oliver creates is one that I think most teens can recognize.  The issues brought up – unhappy situations at home, bullying, relationships, responsibility and sex – are all deftly dealt with by Oliver and a good spring board for discussion.

FROM HERE ON OUT THERE ARE SPOILERS.  BIG SERIOUS SPOILERS.  AS IN “GIVE THE ENDING OF THE BOOK AWAY” SPOILERS.

I deeply respect that there isn’t a happy ending, insofar as that no one wakes up from a coma to find out it was all a bad dream caused by indigestion.  While I think the amount of growth that Sam experienced over the course of the novel is realistic, I can’t help wishing she would have just made it a step further than she did.  I’m disappointed that Oliver let Samantha be side-tracked by Kent, which prevented her from confronting her friends with Juliet.  I think that Samantha deciding that it wasn’t about saving herself but saving Juliet was supposed to be a feel-good ending.  When I initially finished the book, I certainly felt that way.  I dove right into the story and didn’t spend much time thinking about what was happening.  But upon reflection, I’m finding it all rather horrifying.  What happens next?  The most hated girl in school is now responsible for causing the death of one of the most popular girls, as witnessed by the popular girl’s squad of friends that were rushing to save her.  They are also the bullies responsible for Juliet’s low social status.  While the girls night in makes it clear that Ally and Elody would feel guilt for Juliet’s situation, Lindsay can’t and won’t.   Maybe it’ll all work out and Lindsay will be forced to deal with her misdeeds.  But it probably won’t and all of the girls will be deeply scarred by the whole thing.  I understand that not being able to fix everything was a staple of this novel, but that ending was still quite unsatisfying for me.  If anyone who hasn’t read the novel read these spoilers anyway, none of that would stop me from still recommending the book.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Akhirnya’s CBR #32 Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (470p.)

  1. You know I actually didn’t think about the repercussions with Juliet and the other girls. That is a really good point, I just kinda got stuck on Sam.

    Spoilers ahead

    I really liked the Sam/Kent story (sometimes I’m a big ole sap) and I don’t always need a happy ending, but in this instance I wanted at least one good thing for her, at least for her to snap out of the time loop and live to see February 14th. I kind of thought with her learning to be less selfish and saving Juliet, she might live, but no, Ms. Oliver had to go rip my heart out at the end.

    I’m reading her second novel right now and it’s pretty good (although very,very different) so far. I’ll have my review up soon!

    • akhirnya

      Spoilery Spoilering

      I liked the Sam/Kent story line. Sam’s love life is one of the things that I think makes this such a great YA novel. I love that Sam figured out she was dating a douche and realized she needed to ditch her boyfriend for Kent. I just wish Kent hadn’t stopped her in the hall at the party when she was going after Juliet. I liked that the book showed all facets of bullying, but just wished she was there to say that it wasn’t right to everyone before her grand finale, given the circumstances of her death.

      I was hoping against hope she’d live, too, but I think Oliver kind of pigeonholed herself there. How horrible would it have been if she woke up only to find out that the first version of events was true, after all of that? OMFG. I don’t think I could have taken it.

    • akhirnya

      And thanks again for the review of this book! I enjoyed it and having to think about something was a nice change of pace from my other books! Looking forward to your next review.

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