Review: “Before I Fall”, by Lauren Oliver

Samantha Kingston seems to have it all. She has the coolest friends, the most desirable boyfriend, a caring family and her choice of the best tables and parking spots in her school. Her life seems charmed. She’s part of the elite crowd at Thomas Jefferson High; the sort of girl who others wish they could wake up and be…if only for one day. 

Friday, February 12th should just be another day for Sam, but it turns out to be her last. She lives her last day not knowing that it’s all nearly over for her. She doesn’t think about her choices or how they affect other people. She saunters through another day at school, reveling in the security which comes with popularity. All is well, until the car crash. 

And then, Sam wakes up on Friday, February 12th. Again. She has been offered a second chance…

Actually, she is offered seven. Seven chances to live her last day over and over again until she gets it right. It’s an interesting idea and Lauren Oliver explores it well. 

I think anyone who has ever watched Groundhog Day has considered the things they may do if they had the chance to live a day over and over until they made it perfect. So it was great to see this idea in a well written YA book. 

What I found particularly interesting about this book was Samantha’s narrative voice, because to begin with she was a truly dislikable character. She is ignorant, self-centered, vapid and somewhat dull in her two-dimensional portrayal. It is only when she is forced to truly think about how she lives her life that she starts to take on some life. The audience begins to see a girl who really isn’t that secure and who, as a result, clings to the things which make her feel a bit better about who she is. 

I think everyone can relate to that, teenager or not. Or at least, anyone who has ever had low self esteem, or felt like they’re faking their way through the day. We all cling to the things which make us feel a bit more secure about our lives. But what would happen if we were forced to take a step back and really think about the things we cling to? Would we realise that they are just dusty trophies? Would the people we call friends be about as deep as a puddle? And what about the people we think we love?! What would we find out about our real feelings for them?

Samantha’s perspective is refreshing because in her seven days which are really just one day, she figures out a whole bunch of things that the rest of us might take years to comprehend. Lauren Oliver fleshes the character out and makes her audience begin to really care about her. I laughed when she cast discretion to the wind when she realised that there would be no consequences. I gritted my teeth when she put up with some of the people in her life. And I shed a tear when she chose to spend one of her seven days simply playing with her baby sister. 

I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it is both uplifting and saddening. This was a book which made me look at the world around me in a slightly different way, and also reminded me that we only live once. I’m often in need of this reminder…

In the real world there aren’t any repeats, so whatever you’re doing today, make sure you put your heart and soul into it. Seize the opportunities you are given, cherish those you love and let no important words go unsaid. You never know, it might be your last chance.

Carpe Diem! 

Lx

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