With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.Read more...
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With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.
For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12--"Cupid Day"--should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is...until she dies in a terrible accident that night.
However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.
Named to numerous state reading lists, this novel was also recognized as a Best Book of the Year by Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, The Daily Beast, NPR, and Publishers Weekly. It has been optioned for film by Fox 2000 Pictures.
Supports the Common Core State Standards.
- ISBN-13: 9780061726804
- ISBN-10: 006172680X
- Publisher: HarperTorch
- Publish Date: March 2010
- Page Count: 470
- Reading Level: Ages 13-17
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 121.
- Review Date: 2010-01-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Beautiful, popular Samantha and her three best friends are the ruthless queen bees of their high school. But Samantha is living a nightmare: throughout the book, she relives the day of her death seven times, with some dramatic alterations and revelations depending on her choices—ditching school to spend time with her younger sister or, on a day when life’s rules have all but lost their meaning, seducing a teacher. She faces the often tragic consequences of even the smallest acts, awakens to the casual cruelties all around her, and tries to get things right and maybe even redeem herself. If this sounds too much like a Groundhog Day–style plot, make no mistake: evocative of Jenny Downham’s Before I Die, Oliver’s debut novel is raw, emotional, and, at times, beautiful (“It amazes me how easy it is for things to change,” Samantha thinks. “how easy it is to start off down the same road you always take and wind up somewhere new”). Samantha’s best friends are funny, likable, and maddening, but readers will love Samantha best as she hurtles toward an end as brave as it is heartbreaking. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
Getting it right, finally
There’s something you should know: You probably won’t like Samantha Kingston very much, at least not the first time you meet her. But by the time you’ve met her for the third, or fourth, or seventh time, you might start thinking about Samantha a little bit differently. Because she sure starts to see herself that way.
If you’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day, you’ll be familiar with the basic structure of Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall. Samantha relives the same day seven times. She is the only one who’s aware that her life is stuck on repeat—everyone else just keeps living life, moving forward, unaware that for Samantha at least, there’s no such thing as tomorrow. Before I Fall takes a darker, more serious tone than the Bill Murray comedy, however—because what prompts Samantha’s string of “do-overs” is her own death in a car accident.
For so long, Samantha was one of the queen bees, someone who, by her own admission, “just followed along” in the wake of her beautiful, charismatic and sometimes mean friends. But what might happen if she makes different choices—if she takes another look at the boy she’s written off, or reaches out to the outcast, or challenges her best friends’ cruelty? And what will flash before her eyes in the moments before she dies? Samantha hopes it will be the best moments of her life—but what if, instead, her final hours are replayed ad infinitum, giving her the chance to make the right choices, to make amends, even to save someone else’s life, if not her own?
It’s remarkable that Oliver can plot the same day seven times and make each retelling engaging. But Before I Fall is not just a fascinating piece of storytelling; it’s also a thought-provoking commentary on the unintended, and sometimes profound, consequences of even the smallest actions or remarks, and a powerful testimony to people’s ability to make real, meaningful changes in their own behavior and outlook—changes that can deeply affect others’ lives as well.
Norah Piehl is a freelance writer and editor in the Boston area.