Yay! Today is my very first book recommendation since joining The Bookanistas. So excited to share my thoughts on Lauren Oliver’s debut novel Before I Fall with you…
From Lauren Oliver‘s website: 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: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day 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.
Okay, so I know I’m a little late boarding the Before I Fall boat (this book was published March, 2010, FYI), but I did have my reasons:
1) The Buzz – Everyone and their brother read Before I Fall and loved it. I’m weirdly hesitant to jump into books that everyone raves about. More often than not, I end up disappointed.
2) The Premise – While intriguing, it initially struck me as a tad… boring. I mean, the same day seven times? Eh.
3) The Length – This book is a monster. Heavy and long and hardcover. A little daunting.
But… a few months ago I came across a copy of Before I Fall at my local new-and-used bookstore and decided to buy it, mostly because it seemed like one of those books every aspiring YA author should own. Well. Let’s just say I’m SO glad I did, and do! Those three reasons I listed above, the ones that so eloquently explain why I was holding off on Before I Fall? So, so stupid because…
I LOVED THIS BOOK.
Like, really, truly, added-it-to-my-all-time-favorites-bookshelf loved it. If you’re slacking on reading Before I Fall like I did, I highly recommend you remedy that. Here’s why:
1) Voice – So flawlessly teen, and it reads as effortless. Sam says what needs to be said. She doesn’t mince words, and she sounds like a real, cool teen. Not once did I find myself pulled out of the narrative because the voice fell flat or didn’t feel realistic. If you’re looking for a study in authentic teen voice, this is it.
2) The High School Experience – While I obviously adore YA literature, I don’t normally fall for stories set IN high school (unless it’s a boarding school–different story). The whole homework/teacher/switching classes thing usually isn’t for me. But Lauren Oliver’s depiction of Thomas Jefferson High School was fascinating, and so true to life. The dynamic of the “haves” and “have-nots” was never cliché and–alarmingly enough–reminded me very much of my own high school, right down to the Valentine’s Day flower exchange.
3) Pace – Remember how I thought the same-day-seven-times idea might read as boring? It doesn’t. Not at all. Before I Fall never rehashes the same incidents. Sam makes different choices from day to day, changing the course of events each time, thus keeping me completely engaged (turning pages frantically!) through seven relatively long chapters.
4) Friendship – Sam and her three best friends are popular. Boys want to date them; girls want to be them. They can do whatever they please at Thomas Jefferson (and they pretty much do), but that power doesn’t make these girls totally unlikable. Their redeeming quality, for me at least, is the strength of their bond. Their undying loyalty to their foursome, right or wrong, through each girl’s flaws and personal struggles, was captivating and endearing.
5) Kent – A quirky, unique, absolutely charming love interest. He helped me see the real Sam, the girl he so obviously adored. I was rooting for Kent from the moment I was introduced to him, and not just because he wore checkered shoes.
6) Character Arc – Before I Fall has one of the clearest, steepest character arcs I’ve read. Sam and her friends don’t start out sympathetic. In fact, they’re selfish and petty and mean, complete bitches, really. And Sam falls pretty darn far before she begins her slow, pothole-filled climb toward decency. But she does grow, and her growth is believable and enviable and absorbing. Even though the book didn’t end the way I thought it would, I felt satisfied and fulfilled and proud of Sam upon reading the last page.
So, in case I haven’t been clear enough about my love of Before I Fall, I recommend it up and down and all around, and I look forward to reading more of Lauren Oliver’s work.
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