8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 24 May 2012
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.
105 of 111 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2010
Like most teenagers, Sam Kingston believes she's going to live forever. However on a rainy February Friday night, driving home from a party, Sam and her friends Elody, Lindsay and Ally end up in a car crash. A car crash that kills Sam. Trouble is, she wakes up the next day and it's that same Friday. As Sam keeps repeating that fateful Friday, she begins to realise that although she may not be able to save herself, she may well be able to save someone. The question is, will she be able to untangle all of the mysteries surrounding her death before her week is up?
I have to say though that at first I didn't know what to make of the book. For a while it seemed as though I wasn't going to like it and, even worse, I wasn't going to like Sam. The Prologue is fantastic and the build up to the crash was suspenseful but I just couldn't warm to Sam right away. The thing is I think that we're supposed to not really like Sam at the beginning. She's popular, has a fantastic boyfriend and her life couldn't be more perfect but because she was popular she wasn't exactly very nice. Not at first, anyway. I was very quickly sucked in though and as I got to know Sam more, I began to like her more.
The plot is immensely complex yet so simplistic at the same time: Sam dies but, it seems, she hasn't really died and has the chance to re-live her last day seven times. The book is broken up into sections for each of the replayed days and although repeating the same day seven times may seem repetitive and dull, it's not. As Sam re-lives that day again and again more things come to light about what happens the night of the crash and Sam seems to realise just what is important in life. It's ironic really that the only time Sam took stock of what a cow she was, was when she was dying/dead but I suppose that doesn't really matter as Sam did finally realise just how mean she could be. The changes as each day progresses and the realisations that come to Sam all happen subtly and slowly and everything that happens that day is unravelled until eventually Sam has the chance to somehow salvage something from such a horrible situation.
I really recommend you pick up Before I Fall. I truly believe that every teenager should be given this to read as it would really speak to them about a lot of things. The book may not feel heavy or depressing but it does tackle some difficult issues. I actually believe everyone should read this book because it truly is that fantastic. It's totally worth persevering with as once it gets going, it really gets going and I struggled to put it down. This is definitely a book I'll be reading again.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 30 May 2011
The first thing i have to say is that being in my 30s i doubt very much that i am the target audience for this book so please bear this in mind. I picked this book as i like to read books that are slightly different and after reading the back thought this would be the sort of thing i usually like, not realising at the time it was a young adult book. Unfortunately however i was very disappointed and on a couple of occasions considered giving up on the book. The problem was that i just didn't like the main characters and really couldn't care less what happened to them. I think this is probably what the author intended as the essence of the story is; really popular spoilt brat gets to see how her actions affect other people and starts turning into a nicer person. The other point i would make is that the characters are supposed to be 18. If i had not known that then i would have thought they were more 13 to 14 years of age. I have to say that the book does get better in the second half but only because of the new love interest aspect. Not a book i would read again or pass on to friends to read.
68 of 75 people found the following review helpful
I've been trying to write this review for weeks, but have had a hard time putting my thoughts into words. I could just say that Before I Fall is amazing, fantastic, a groundbreaking debut. It's all of these things, yet so much more. You know when you read a book, and you're left speechless at the end, like you're in sensory overload? That was what happened to me when I read Before I Fall. I was a complete mess, left reeling like Sam's end had been my end, like her thoughts and feelings had been my own. It's a powerful feeling, though completely unprecedented.
Before I Fall made me wish I was a writer. It made me wish I could arrange sentences that would mean something to people, and maybe even change how they live their life. Not many books do that for me, but when they do, they cast their spell on me and stay in my head forever. Sam's story did more than that -- it made me realise that life is precious, and that every single choice we make has an effect. We might not see it, but it's there. Our decisions have the ability to alter someone's path, or someone's self perception. We have to think about what we do, how we treat others and what one wrong turn can lead to.
Sam's whole journey is filled with regrets and what ifs. Her story is tragic, yes, but it's also redeeming. How many of us wish we could relive a day, maybe do something differently, or take something back? It's a dream we'll never experience, but for Sam it's her reality, even her nightmare. She has a second chance, and she has to use it to fix the trouble she caused, and the people she hurt along the way. I didn't like Sam at first; I thought she was horrible, stuck-up, and not someone I'd ever want to know. Lauren Oliver warned me of this before I started the book, so I was prepared to hate her. What I wasn't prepared for was how much she'd change, and how much she'd speak to me and my way of life.
I'm a naturally shy, quiet person: I don't take risks, I don't try many new things, and I worry about situations I have no control over. Lauren has shown me that life's too short to worry about what might happen in the future, and that once it's gone, it's gone. I've made a conscious effort to live a little, and not focus on the negatives of everything. For that I owe her a huge thanks, because it's something I've struggled with for a long time. On a personal level, this book is everything I've needed, and I hope sharing my thoughts can make someone like me open their eyes to new experiences.
To put it simply, just buy this book. Meet Sam, cry with Sam, and live with Sam. Then go out and do something new. Even if you only say hi to someone outside your circle, or drive a different way to work, it's a step in the right direction.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2012
Before I Fall is Lauren Oliver's debut novel. Having read both Delirium and Pandemonium before this, I had high hopes. I wasn't disappointed and I loved it. Lauren Oliver is quickly becoming another one of my favourite authors.
Before I Fall tells the story of Sam Kingston. She has everything a girl could want in high school: she's pretty, popular, has a good-looking boyfriend and amazingly fun friends. Friday, February 12th starts out normal, but it turns out to be the last day of her life. She ends up having to relive her last day seven times, in which she gets the chance to make things right and evaluate the choices she's made in life.
Before I Fall was beautiful and inspiring. On the night of February 12th, Sam and her best friends: Lindsay, Ally and Elody go to a party being held by Kent McFuller in his house while his parents are away. On the way home from the party, Sam and her friends are in a car accident and Sam dies. The catch: she wakes up in the morning, seven times. Sam doesn't start out very likeable and is the typical high school mean girl. As usual, she is a bully along with the rest of her friends, and never questions it. She stays this way throughout most of the book, and I resented her for most of it. She realises that she's living the same day over and over, and she ends up doing what she likes and trying different ways to go about the day. This, I liked. I liked how even how the tiniest change or adjustment could change something dramatically, and I liked seeing how it would play out.
Of course, Sam does try to prevent her death in a few ways, such as staying home the night of the party or skipping school altogether. But even this has a dramatic outcome and something terrible would happen in the place of Sam's death. Sam continues to try other tactics, and she learns quite a few things along the way, growing as a character. Gradually, she realises that she needs to make things right before she dies with some of the people in her life. I think this really showed how much the little things matter in life, and Oliver created very relatable characters in both the bully(ies) and the bully. At this point, I was really rooting for Sam and she was likeable and relatable. This is also when the romance comes into play. It was sweet and touching, and Sam knew she was completely undeserving of him because she had treated him badly for years although he was always nice to her. It makes the ending all the more tragic.
Overall, this was fantastic and it really is a must-read for people in secondary school/high school. Before I Fall was full of drama, tragedy and startlingly relatable characters. It deals with the effects of teen bullying and suicide, how much everything means in life and how it feels on both sides.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The "dying teen" issue is one that has been quite overdone lately in the YA genre. There is this book, Gayle Forman's 'If I Stay' and Jenny Downham's 'Before I Die' to mention just a few, but they've all been very popular with their readers so far. I wondered how Oliver would be able to do this subject justice without making it overly sentimental or too predictable by the end but I really needn't have worried about any of these things. The story moves along perfectly, covering all angles that you'd expect as a reader, and it had a cast of characters who I really cared about by the last page.
Sam Kingston is the perfect lead character. She isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination - she hangs out with the wrong crowd, she's bitchy to people who don't deserve it and she doesn't realise how blessed her life is. However, this just makes her more real and believable as a character and most people will have known at least 1 Sam through their experience at school, I certainly did! However, my favourite thing about Sam was her development through the book. I loved her frustration when every new day came and she found she was living the same thing once more, it was so well written that you almost felt every emotion with her.
The things that happen in the book aren't always easy to read or enjoyable, but they are part of every teen's growing up experience. What's different for Sam is that she has a chance for redemption of her behaviour, and we're left wondering whether Sam is ever going to take that path. Sam's friends are also fantastic characters and again perfect examples of 18 year old schoolgirls. Lindsey is certainly the strongest and perhaps the one I disliked the most but I understood why she had to be that person for me. Elody is sweet but we don't get to see enough of her for me to have strong feelings either way. Finally, Ally was again likeable, but because they were living the same day over and over, we don't really see much change in them, and your focus is brought back to Sam which is of course the point.
There are several relationships going on throughout the book, and I am not just talking teen romances either. Oliver manages to hit on so many of these in the book that it really does make the book very emotional. She explores Sam's own relationship with her parents, and I think this was handled in a superb way, but better than this was Sam's bond with her younger sister Izzy. I had tears in my eyes in several parts because the writing was so raw, and well handled. We see the friendship between the 4 girls go through swings and roundabouts in the book, Sam chops and changes friends as the days go by, and it just keeps up the momentum of the book and the interest of the reader.
Even if you aren't a fan of YA, then I still say pick up a copy of this book. Yes, it falls into that genre because that is the primary market but the writing is of such a high standard and the book so enjoyable that I think pretty much anybody would fail to be moved by this book. I can't deny that I had tears in my eyes in several parts, and I was still surprised by the ending which I loved because I really thought I had it all sussed out. Yes, it's sad and emotional, but a good book can do that - it can make you laugh, cry, scream and weep, and that is what this book delivers more than anything - emotion. Lauren Oliver is certainly an enormous talent in the bookworld, and I cannot wait to see what she is going to do next because Before I Fall is simply a triumph.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2011
Brilliant book. Although the main characters are all teenagers at school and the language has been very well written as if by a teenager, this book will be enjoyed by any age. Granted, it is more of a 'female' book, as the only male characters that feature are the objects of desire of the female characters, but a great read nonetheless (considering I am female!). The book enthralls you from the very first page and slowly you begin to create bonds with the characters that stay with you even after you have finished reading. There are so many things to relate to, and an equal amount of things you just can't, but they are just as much fun as you find yourself imagining you in those situations. The book teaches you morals and plays with your emotions without shoving the morals down your throat or throwing stereotypically emotional words and situations in your face. It is a compelling chase of a book that I take great pride in having on my bookshelf, definitely worth buying.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 March 2015
It’s so hard to explain why I loved this book so much, bearing in mind that the main character is basically a nasty bully, but here goes...
Imagine if you could do over the last day of your life until you got it exactly right? What would you do differently? That’s the chance Samantha gets when she’s involved in a fatal drink-driving accident on her way home from a party. She’s at the top of the pile in her high school, wielding masses of social power, and yet the last day of her life shows her exactly how much power she has.
I started off absolutely despising the characters in Before I Fall. God, they’re horrible! Really dreadful. And yet I kept reading because Lauren Oliver’s writing is just so superb. She’s descriptive enough to keep you interested and engaged and she keeps Samantha and her friends just human enough for you to keep caring about them. The things they get up to are basically any parent’s nightmare.
Although the book is written from Samantha’s POV, you also get a real feel for the poor girl they pick on, Juliet Sykes. I was never bullied at school - thank Christ - and I was never a bully either, but holy crap, at some points it really feels like you’re the one Samantha and her friends are bullying.
There’s some romance in Before I Fall and it keeps you wondering whether, if Samantha finally manages to play out the last day of her life the way the fates want her to, they’ll finally end up together. Kent’s kind of gawky and seriously uncool but you can tell that once the nightmare of high school is over and he’s had a chance to grow into his character and talents, he’ll be fighting the girls off with a s***ty stick.
Before I Fall raises so many questions about how the things we do affect other people, even tiny things that from the outside look totally inconsequential. It’s young adult and marketed as such, but it ought to be required reading for everyone.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2013
I just finished this book and I can't explain how much it changed me. At first, I really thought I was going to hate it because I couldn't stand the main character for the way she sort of watched and sort of participated in the bullying and belittling of countless fellow pupils. But as I read on, I began to really love this book as Sam grew and started to realise the power of her actions and the error of her old ways. I began to find even the nastiest of the characters more and more likeable as their stories began to unfold, reminding me that no one is as complete as they might appear to be, and also that no one is past the point of redemption. More than anything, this book reminded me of how important it is to be the best version of ourselves at all times, that when faced with death we are comfortable in the knowledge that we did all we could to be remembered for the right reasons, for the beautiful, flawed, real complexities within us, for trying to do the right thing wherever possible, that we know nothing about the people we might claim to know everything about, to appreciate all that we have and to be good to those who don't have who have nothing and to those who have everything. This book served as a reminder to appreciate all that I have and, rather than planning to be a better person in the future, to become more filled with humanity and kindness and consideration and bravery today because none of us know if today will be our last day, or even one of seven last days if, like Sam, we are given that opportunity. 'Before I Fall' was the reality check I needed and I am so glad I bought it
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Okay, let me clear something up from the outset. I am not a religious person and have never had any real belief in the `life after death' scenario. Having said that I try to be open minded, but struggled when reading the jacket for this particular book. I opened the book with a high level of trepidation. The only thing that was spurring me on was the outstanding review level of this book on various websites. Amazon was showing an outstanding review level of 4.5 out of 5 over 78 customer reviews. In addition to the high rating not one person had given it a score lower than 3!
The book itself is quite an eye catching cover with a close up of a young girls face on it. You then open the book to read a two page prologue which gives you an insight into Sam and what she is thinking. As the first few chapters went by I found myself not having an awful lot of empathy with this seemingly spoilt brat of a girl. Sam Kingston is seen to be a typical American teenager that has everything at her feet. She is pretty, popular and has a close circle of friends as well as the popular boyfriend.
We see Sam's first day speed by and before I knew it I was halfway through the book. There is no spoiler when I say that we relive Sam's day following her death as this is made clear from the outset. The whole point of the book is to follow her journey as she tries desperately to `get it right'. She struggles with things such as treating people in the right way and dealing with her true feelings towards classmates.
Her friends Lindsay, Elody and Ally are all introduced very early on and I never really liked Lindsay, even at the end. We also see her old school friend Kent and the girl that is most unpopular in school. The book highlights just how much of an impact people have on each others lives in how they treat each other.
Around the last few chapters I felt myself warming to Sam and realising that she is just a girl. Like many young girls, she makes mistakes and sometimes it takes a big event to make you see the error of your ways.
The ending is not quite what I thought it would be but I was very happy overall with how the story was told. It is a book that should be taught in English in schools across the country. It has strong values within it and would benefit more than a few teenagers across the country.
Although I had my reservations, I can see why this book has been so popular. It is all of life's emotions rolled into one. You will laugh, cry and sometimes be shocked at what you read. You will feel empathy as well as feeling angry; it's a book that will maybe make you look at things differently if only for a day!