I was lucky enough to win this book as part of Goodreads' Giveways program.
I was pleasantly surprise by this book. It is a quiet one; nuanced. It coul...moreI was lucky enough to win this book as part of Goodreads' Giveways program.
I was pleasantly surprise by this book. It is a quiet one; nuanced. It could be easily grouped into the world of run of the mill "chick lit" if Pagan didn't catch her readers off guard with vital and, thankfully, subtle brushes of real insight. Because of the subtlety these insights steer clear of morals or lessons that are often banged over readers heads as the "take-aways" from the book. Her main character, Marissa, doesn't experience huge epiphanies or make huge over arching changes in her life, but rather grows one small adjustment at a time, in a way I found both refreshing and truthful.(less)
I’ve recently been on this YA reading kick. I like to explain it because of my still relatively new job at Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Bookshop and justify...moreI’ve recently been on this YA reading kick. I like to explain it because of my still relatively new job at Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Bookshop and justify it by saying, “Well it’s part of my job to be up on the current YA book scene.” But the truth of the matter is that I really like YA novels. They explore worlds that are just as relevant to me as a 20 something year old as they were when I was a teen. And I think that’s why they call it Young Adult books rather than Teen books. Because their relevance and appeal and in some cases purely entertaining qualities extent beyond high school graduation, beyond the day you turn 20 and are no longer in any sense of the term, a teenager.
Take for example Before I Fall, the debut novel of Lauren Oliver. I have read all 3 of the books she has published thus far and wait with baited breath for the final book in her Delirium series to be published. What I’ve discovered is that I really love the way she writes. Clear, while still dabbled with beautiful turns of phrase. Simply, while still sending you into a tail spin when the plot shifts in ways you didn’t see coming. And yes, none of these books are the most intellectual or complicated books I’ve ever read. And yes, they are not the books that have solicited the most emotional reaction of my life. But they, specifically Before I Fall, speak to me on an emotional level. I think if I’m truly honest, they speak to the insecure teen that still hides away in a small corner of myself that I more often than not forget about entirely.
Before I Fall is a story about a girl named Sam, who, during the February of her senior of high school, dies in a car crash on the way home from a party one night. However, the next morning she wakes up, only to find that it is February 12 (the day she died) all over again. She ends up reliving this day a grand total of 7 times. The first time in complete denial, refusing to accept that she has actually lived this day before. Another time, in fact multiple times, trying to avoid her own death only to wake up on the same day all over again. Another, completely angry about the fact that she is in all likelihood dead. As her week of Friday the 12ths continues on Sam and her reader begins to realize that there is more to her death than both she and I originally thought. I remember finishing the section when she dies on the original Friday the 12th and thinking, gee this isn’t so complicated, her friend was drunk, and drives like an idiot regardless, and the car crashed and now she’s dead. Thanks Harper (the publisher) for making this into a bigger deal than it actually is and PLEASE don’t tell me this is a novel about teenage partying and its dangers. But it’s not I promise. I wouldn’t have finished it, much less enjoyed it, if it were.
Lauren Oliver’s choice to spread her story over 7 days of Friday the 12 is relevant, as it not only aligns with the 7 Stages of Grief, but also with God’s Creation of the World in the Book of Genesis. Sam is both grieving the loss of her own life, which is a weird meta-esque thing to do, though it still reads well, and is creating a more authentic version of herself.
Now I know what you’re thinking, this sounds like it’s diving straight into after-school special territory about “making the most of the time you have because life is short” and “what you do affects other people” and “be yourself”. And to be honest there are a few moments where the “message” can be a little heavy handed. But over all, somehow Lauren Oliver manages to avoid over the top and over-dramatic and manages to stay in the truthful place that all after-school specials, and Glee for that matter, try so hard to exist in and just fail miserably. Because you and I both know the reason why a lot of these things and themes and topics come up over and over again, until they are corny and cliche and fodder for Degrassi and Glee (arguably the sing-along version of the former with a lot less edginess because it airs on American national network television): They are kind of true. It is true that what we do affects other people and can alter their world even when we don’t think about it. It is true that the majority of us nip and tuck away at the parts of our personalities and identities that are perceived to be undesirable. And it is true that we only get so much time that’s ours despite the fact that Time is this constant that goes on without any visible end in sight.
So it is refreshing and relieving and dare I say brilliant when an author can explore these truths without beating us over the head with a message, without making us want to gag. I think that Lauren Oliver manages to do that.(less)