Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Released: 24th October 2011
'...it makes me feel, weirdly, like maybe all of these different possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other memories layered beneath it that look different.'
Lauren Oliver definitely impressed me with Delirium, so of course I went looking to see what else she'd written. I finally got around to reading this and am left impressed once again.
If you only had one day left to live, what would you do? Who would you spend it with?
These are the questions Sam Kingston thinks a little about, but not much. Mostly she thinks about having fun with her friends, spending time with her boyfriend and maintaining her popularity. But then she dies, and everything changes. Because Sam can't die straight away; not just like that. First she must repeat the same day seven times and use those days to figure out what went wrong and how to fix things. One life and her death depend on it.
At the beginning, I didn't warm to Sam. While she wasn't exactly oblivious to what she was doing, she still failed to realise the true seriousness of her actions, and while she knew that she and her friends were acting badly, she failed to stand up to them and try to open their eyes. Very quickly she grew angry with what was happening to her and decided that none of it mattered. She could do anything she wanted, and what would it matter since she would get to relive the same day again tomorrow? I also thought she was being pretty selfish when she knew that someone else's life was at stake, yet decided to interfere only because she thought it might help her. Then, however, she realised what she had to do. I loved seeing her character bloom in the last two or three days; even though she had a few misguided starts, there was at least some progress, and eventually Sam came to be an admirable character.
Unfortunately, I can't say the same for her friends, Lindsay, Elody and Ally. There were glimpses for each of them, Lindsay especially, that showed a deeper insight into their characters, but not enough to affect me in any way. I would have liked to have seen more - some change in their characters, too. I would also have like to see some more moments with Sam's family. Even though we see the same day repeating itself throughout the book, there could perhaps have been more insights that happened according to Sam's behaviour. We see a little more depth to Sam's mum, but again, not enough for me to really appreciate it. Having said that, I loved Sam's little sister, Izzy. Despite the age gap, Izzy is in some ways wiser than her sister.
"Do - do the other kids ever make fun of you? For how you talk?"
I feel her stiffen underneath her layers and layers. "Sometimes."
"So why don't you do something about it?" I say. "You could learn to talk differently, you know."
"But this is my voice." She says it quietly but with insistence. "How would you be able to tell when I was talking?"
At this point Sam is starting to pick up on things, but there's so much she still doesn't get. It's moving to see how wise Izzy can be. I loved seeing Sam appreciate her more and wanting to spend time with her; the development of their relationship was really sweet, as was that between Kent and Sam. He's quiet, but intense, present and true. He loves Sam, yet is not afraid to be honest with her. As he says, he sees right through her.
Without a doubt, the best thing about this book is the writing. Lauren Oliver knows exactly which words to use to wrench the emotions out of you, and she knows how to describe things beautifully. I love her ability to pinpoint an exact emotion, thought, moment. Her contrast between Sam's typical teen observations and her more thoughtful realisations made me appreciate the writing even more. It got me thinking about the truth of those realisations and about how well Oliver seems to know about life. We do things every day, perform actions, say words, without thinking about the impact or consequences they may have. And that's really what this book explores.
The pace of this book is gradual. At the beginning, I thought it was just an OK read and nothing more, but then it started building up and Sam's character started developing. The messages and the emotions behind this book are powerful. I realise I've only touched very briefly on the love interest in this, but really, it's about so much more than that. I'm not too sure how I feel about the ending, though, other than it was very moving. If you haven't read this yet, I strongly recommend it.
If you only had one day left to live, what would you do? Who would you spend it with? And what would you change?