Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

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I wasn’t sure if I should review this book. It has thousands already and was made into a truly horrible movie. Fortunately, I read the book before watching it. For all those people who saw the movie but haven’t read the book, and those who haven’t given it a thought at all, this review is for you.

Samantha Kingston is a snobby, popular – yet despised by many – teenager. Her three best friends are equally superior and they are all hard to like. They are typical teens with complicated home lives that turn them into monsters who mistreat the other kids at school. From the get-go, I disliked each one, including Samantha. The movie Mean Girls describes them perfectly: callous, selfish, unsympathetic, shallow, and they think they are entitled to everything. That all changes, though.

The book starts with Samantha’s death. It’s eloquently written and grabbed my attention right away. Every time she died, my heart ached, and she matured dramatically. When she wakes up that first morning and realizes she is replaying the previous day – much like the infamous Groundhog Day – she finally notices the people around her and takes a deeper look at her friends, family, and fellow students.

These so-called popular girls have made the lives of everyone around them miserable. There are certain characters that are vital to the story, because they open Samantha’s eyes and she recognizes the abuse she doles out. Having once been a loser, she will do anything to maintain her popularity and that means being a nasty individual who follows the queen bee like a thoughtless sheep. Through her death, she is able to see the repercussions of that one day on those who choose not to be a groupie.

Determined to figure out how to survive, she sets about righting her wrongs and dealing with the emotional pain of repeating them over and over. She approaches each day as a test to figure out what she needs to do differently in regards to a specific victim. Multiple tests lead to her feeling better about herself, after all she did just help someone whom she had originally ridiculed or destroyed their relationships. But she’s not surviving. She is missing the purpose behind this cosmic experiment. Needless to say, she eventually figures it out in a great epiphany.

While this book is more young adult, I think the message is something that applies to everyone. Whether you can get through it, due to the whole high school scene which is a bit nauseating, is up to you, but I believe it is worth your while. I sped through this book, eager to reach the end. Would she live? Would she die? Whose life would she alter for the better? For once, I found a book that kept me in suspense. Watching her evolve over a short period of time was heartwarming and the author did a phenomenal job of putting the reader inside her head. It was beautifully written, especially considering the content that was emotionally difficult to read. Thus is high school, though; it’s one long, often discouraging, trial after another.

The rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – It’s not quite fantasy, but it does have that timeline aspect. It’s not time travel, but it’s definitely disruption. It’s aimed for teenagers, but I’m an adult who absolutely loved it.
  • Level of sexuality – They’re teenagers. They think about it a lot and put great emphasis on it. Part of her day and a decision she faces repeatedly, is whether or not to lose her virginity to her drunk, superficial boyfriend. Overall, the level is mid, but that is due to the importance and detail given to sex in general.
  • Is there graphic language? Like I said, they are teenagers, desperate to become adults. There is some, but it’s not excessive.
  • Did I cry? You bet and more than once.
  • Did I laugh? There were entertaining moments that made me chuckle. They were a nice break in an otherwise serious novel.
  • Level of character development – Samantha grows exponentially. She starts out as an obnoxious teenager who follows the cliché popular girl everyone hates, and turns into someone who cares about the people around her and her impact on their lives. Her friends do not evolve, but they are not the ones living the same day over. The author peels the layers away for each one and they become something much deeper and, surprisingly, they are all relatable. I would be interested to find out how they are affected by Samantha’s last time repeating that day.

Considering the high number of books I have read, it means a lot when I say that this is one that will haunt me forever. Will I ever read it again? Probably not, but that does not reflect upon the writing, the story, the characters, or the message. It is cemented in my mind and I will never forget it. I cannot recommend this highly enough, even for readers who cannot stand high school books. This goes beyond the trivialities of high school. The true story is applicable to every person and every stage of life. I gladly give it a rare ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars. The movie will quickly fade from my memory, but the book will live on forever.

Available here on Amazon

Available here on Barnes & Noble

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