Penny's Reviews > Before I Fall

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
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it was amazing
bookshelves: ya-fiction, penny-s-favorite-books, reviewed-books, bullies, contemporary, mean-girls, only-the-good-die-young, re-read
Recommended to Penny by:
Recommended for: Everyone
Read 3 times. Last read March 18, 2010 to March 20, 2010.

Before I get to the review I just wanted to let everyone know I don't typically write reviews for books I love. The reason being, I'm not good at writing worth-while and positive reviews (as opposed to my uncanny ability to write crazy rants about books I totally loathe). Or rather, I know I'm not up to the task: writing a review worthy of a book so beautiful, so eloquently written I can't stop thinking about it long after I've finished it.

I know there is nothing I could say that could not be better said by the book itself, or even just a review written by someone who is smarter than me has a way with words.

That said, here I am, attempting to write a review worthy of Before I Fall. If I fail, which is more than likely, please do not hold it against the book--it isn't the book's fault I'm not a talented writer.

So without further ado...

Popular girl Samantha Kingston thinks a lot about the what she's done throughout her seventeen years of life as she relives her last day over and over again. In all, Samantha is given seven chances to figure out what went wrong, what chain of events brought about her death. Seven opportunities to change and make things right. Seven days to save herself.

At first glance, Samantha--Sam--doesn't come across as anything special. Sure, she's popular but other than her superior social standing she's basically your average teenager. Her biggest concern is her virginity, which she will be losing to her boyfriend that night--she's freaked out but feels it's time to get it over with. Other than that she's wondering how many roses she'll have by the end of Cupid Day and if she looks okay considering she didn't get to shower that morning.

However, it doesn't take long before we're given a better, more accurate picture of the type of person Samantha Kingston truly is. Over the course of the day she cheats on a test, flirts shamelessly with her calculus teacher, cuts class, gets pretty drunk and treats her classmates like garbage--Sam and her friends are especially cruel to one girl in particular.

All in all it's an average school day for Samantha Kingston.

Clearly I didn't like Samantha Kingston at the beginning of this novel. She's a horrible self-absorbed teenager. What's worse is the fact that she thinks so highly of herself and her friends, saying:
"I'm not going to lie, though. It's nice that everything's easy for us. It's a good feeling knowing you can basically do whatever you want and there won't be any consequences."

And then goes on to say:
"If high school were a game of poker, Lindsey, Ally, Elody and I would be holding 80 percent of the cards."

After Sam finishes recounting her last day--in which she clearly does not come out looking good--she tells us about how she died, then says:
"Before you start pointing fingers, let me ask you: is what I did really so bad? So bad I deserved to die? So bad I deserved to die like that? Is what I did really so much worse than what anybody else does? Is it really so much worse than what you do? Think about it."

Like everyone else I went to high school with girls like Samantha Kingston and her friends. And like most everyone else I haaaaated those girls. So. Much. Who wants to read a story about a bunch of horrible teenagers? No one. But you know what? Turns out when I was seventeen I was not that much better than Samantha Kingston. Sure I wasn't a total A-hole, but the truth is I gossiped, lied, cheated, cut class--the works. And I treated a lot of people badly--peers and adults. But I haven't really spent too much time thinking about the person I was in high school. Not until Sam asks us, the readers, if what she did is so much worse than what we do.

That's why I kept reading.

As Sam relives February 12 we see her grow and change. At first her attempts at being a better person are so half-hearted, or ill-concieved you wonder if she's actually trying. And yeah, as the reader I got frustrated with Sam. I wanted to see her change right away, and she didn't. Then I remembered she's a spoiled teenager that hasn't been made to work for anything in her life. Remember, it was Sam herself who admitted:
"It's nice that everything's easy for us. It's a good feeling knowing you can basically do whatever you want and there won't be any consequences."

That's Sam's mentality at the beginning of this story, her reality, so of course she has no clue how to truly change, to be the better person.

However, not many February 12ths pass when a horrifying turn of events forces Sam to acknowledge the ugly truth. Sam takes a good look at herself, at her friends, and what she sees drives her to an all-time low--when Sam hits bottom she really hits bottom.

Sam needs that low point, the chance to spiral out of control, even if it's just for one day because it is only after she's humbled we see her make any significant changes. She starts to look at all she has (or rather, had) and be grateful for it. She looks at her family in a whole new light, and realizes just how much she truly loves them. She looks at her little sister specifically--a sweet little seven-year-old who is proud of who she is--and realizes she admires her little sister because she embraces the things that make her different from all her peers.

After Sam's low point her thoughts, her ideas become downright beautiful/amazing. There were many times I stopped to reread passages, and even consider them for a bit. Example:
"Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there's a tomorrow. Maybe for you there's one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around in it, let it slide like coins through your fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there's only today. And the truth is, you never really know."

It's at this point that my feelings from this book went from like to love.

And no, Sam still doesn't get things right away. She still struggles, but the important part is she's really trying, really working. She learns from her mistakes and makes corrections. Sam realizes, despite her belief that she can't be fixed, it's never too late to change. Some of Sam's changes don't come about until the 11th hour, but they do come.

And yes, I love how this book ends. I know there are many people who simply didn't like this book because of how it ends, and for the life of me I cannot understand why. Any other ending would have been a complete cop-out (think about it). Plus, (view spoiler)

I love this book, it is one of my favorites. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this book since I finished reading it two weeks ago, and because of that it will always have a home on my bookshelf.

By the way, I've spent an embarrassingly long amount of time trying to cobble together a semi-decent review of this book. Now go purchase a copy of Before I Fall, stat, you won't be sorry.

P.S. this book deserves six stars.

Update April 4, 2010: my husband, who typically doesn't like any of the books I like, just stayed up all night reading Before I Fall. When he finished it he woke me up to thank me for all but shoving this book down his throat (and he wasn't being ironic. Believe me, I checked). He sincerely likes this book. More than anything he loves the way Lauren Oliver writes, but overall he likes the story quite a bit. It was nice talking to him about it this morning, we had a very pleasant discussion. :)
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Quotes Penny Liked

Lauren Oliver
“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there's a tomorrow. Maybe for you there's one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it.
But for some of us there's only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”
Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver
“Here's one of the things I learned that morning: if you cross a line and nothing happens, the line loses meaning. It's like that old riddle about a tree falling in a forest, and whether it makes a sound if there's no one around to hear it.

You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That's how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to bust out of orbit, to spin out to a place where no one can touch you. To lose yourself--to get lost.

Or maybe you wouldn't be surprised. Maybe some of you already know.

To those people, I can only say: I'm sorry.”
Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver
“I guess that's what saying good-bye is always like--like jumping off an edge. The worst part is making the choice to do it. Once you're in the air, there's nothing you can do but let go.”
Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver
“I hate both of my parents right now: for sitting quietly in our house, while out in the darkness my heart was beating away all of the seconds of my life, ticking them off one by one until my time was up; for letting the thread between us stretch so far and so thin that the moment it was severed for good they didn't even feel it.”
Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

Lauren Oliver
“Things That Don't Matter When You've Lived the Same Day Six Times and Died on at Least Two of Them: Lunch meats and their relative coolness. ”
Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Finished Reading
February 22, 2010 – Shelved
March 18, 2010 – Started Reading
March 18, 2010 –
page 64
13.62% "I wasn't sure I'd like this, but so far so good. :)"
March 18, 2010 –
page 256
54.47% "Wow. I can't put this book down--don't even want to sleep. Wow. Just--wow."
March 19, 2010 –
page 333
70.85% "I forced myself to put the book away in the wee hours of the morning, but only so I might draw the experience out--I want to savor this book"
March 19, 2010 –
page 469
99.79% "Beautiful."
March 20, 2010 – Shelved as: ya-fiction
March 20, 2010 – Shelved as: penny-s-favorite-books
March 20, 2010 – Finished Reading
April 22, 2010 – Shelved as: reviewed-books
March 14, 2013 – Shelved as: bullies
March 14, 2013 – Shelved as: contemporary
March 14, 2013 – Shelved as: mean-girls
March 14, 2013 – Shelved as: only-the-good-die-young
March 14, 2013 – Shelved as: re-read

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Tatiana Excellent review. I have this book waiting for me at the library.

P.S. I can't write rave reviews either. I am a hater:o)

Kristen "Kirby" This book sounds really good... I'm going to have to order this with my next batch of books from B&N. Great review.

Tatiana wrote: ....P.S. I can't write rave reviews either. I am a hater:o)"

Writing reviews for bad books is funner, imo. I get to be all sarcastic. lol

message 3: by Penny (last edited Apr 04, 2010 08:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Penny Kristen, I totally agree. Writing reviews for bad books is incredibly fun.

I hope you like it Tatiana. It's the best book I've read since I don't know when. It is the best debut novel I've ever read--hands down. This book had me laughing and crying. I really love this book.

But it's cool if you don't end up loving it like I do. I think the reason it affected me so much is because I've been looking for a book like this for quite some time.

Heather I got an ARC of this one and obviously, haven't yet read it.I read the first few pages, didn't like them, and quickly put it down. I haven't managed to talk myself into picking it back up, but maybe I should....

message 5: by Monique (new)

Monique Ive read this book and I really love it. Your review is really well written and for a person who doesn't write many good reviews you did an excellent job.This book is really beautiful and bittersweet.

Wicked Incognito Now Great review. I'm sold. Off I go to Amazon.

Laura I started this last night, around 2 AM, 'cause I couldn't sleep. Stayed up until 4 AM to finish it, in tears for the last 100 pages or so. And I do not, ever cry. =.=

message 8: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen I have this book on my shelf. I haven't read it yet but because of your review I will start it tomorrow:)

Amanda Ciancaglione Well I started this book a couple days ago, only because I didn't have anything else to read considering I read two books in one day and I love reading. Anyway the first chapter (let tell 84 or something pages for 1 chapter lol) just free me torwards it!! I'm more into the romantic books, and after reading that one chapter I didn't want to put it down ! I kept reading, then I'd stay up and read all night. That day I finished it but since I went through it so fast I didn't understand it and that's not normal for me and books! Lol so I'm rereading it and I totally understand everything now, and alot of parts Ive been rereading and reading between the lines !! I question myself and everything.

message 10: by Dot (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dot You really didnt need to worry about writing your review. It was amazing. I havent read this book yet but I deffinately will now just because of your review. Thanks :D

message 11: by Carol (new)

Carol Awesome review. You got me, off to the bookstore.

Kristen wow. I started it this morning, and just finished it. Probably would not have read it if not for you, I have had the ARC for months...thanks Penny!

Katrina Harris I too never write reviews - I just rate the books I read and move on. But this one actually compelled me to write something. Nothing even close to what you wrote...but there is so much about this book that I have to contemplate...mostly about whether to have my own daughter read it...or more likely to make my friends with girls that age read it!

Desirae I have to agree with your review Penny. I couldn't put the book down, and for so many reasons.
First, I love that there were characters anyone could identify with in the story. The "Sam, Ally, Juliette, or the Kent's".
Secondly, the book is incredibly current. With so much light being shed on the true effects of bullying, this is a much needed read for many young adults.
It reminded me of Jodi Picolts Nineteen Minutes which I also loved!
I cried pretty much through the last day. My younger brother died a few years ago in a motorcycle accident, and when she was saying good bye to Izzie, I had to stop reading for a minute. Makes you wonder if it could be possible the loss hurts them just as badly.?
I loved the growth of her character over the week, and how she changed a few things. I know most hated Sam at first, but I really hated Lindsay!
I loved the book. Great review.

Sarah I think you have a way with words. :) Great review.

message 16: by PaperFantasies (new)

PaperFantasies i totally agree your way with words is wonderful!

Morgan Are you kidding me? That review was awesome and yeah I can't write positive reviews either but yours was amazing!

Christina A published book should be good. Like good service at a nice restaurant, it's expected. But a bad book, well, deserves the bash. Someone has to tell the general public not to waste their money. :)

message 19: by Scott-robert (new)

Scott-robert Shenkman What do you mean by "ambiguous"?

message 20: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth Taylor Thanks for the awesome review!! Can't wait to read this now!

message 21: by Spw (new) - rated it 4 stars

Spw I completely agree with your point that Sam was an incredibly self-centered and mean person in the beginning of the novel. I especially like your comment that stated, "it is only after she's humbled we see her make any significant changes.” I think you made a great point!

message 22: by Mckenna (new) - added it

Mckenna I am just like you with reviews!

message 23: by Mez (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mez This was an amazing review. You really did an amazing job in describing the book in your own way. Thanks for a great review!

message 24: by Jah (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jah I agree! this book is beautiful and very good for anyone in high school to read! helps to step back and look at yourself

message 25: by Mrh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mrh Your review is so great. I agree with you about every point at each stage of the story. I loved all of the different quotes you added to the review which really helped give the book the amazing review it deserves.

message 26: by Scott-robert (new)

Scott-robert Shenkman But what's the point of doing the Groundhog Day thing? Unless you come back to life, it's over. It's done with. There's no learning beyond the grave and no fixing your sins for a free pass to heaven (and I'm not even a Christian and I'm saying that- I'm Jewish and if you don't atone and FIX IT by the day you die, that is it - God metes out exactly what's coming to you and there is no getting out of that). I know that's what you mean by any other ending being a cop-out coming back to love and not moving on), but since this is an afterlife oriented book, if it goes against your theology, it just won't resonate as even vaguely possible. Not taking away from what is obviously the quality of the book, but sometimes your believes just won’t want you to read a certain book (like let’s say a Christian reading a book where a non-Christian goes to heaven – they would probably find that offensive).

Penny Scott-robert wrote: "But what's the point of doing the Groundhog Day thing? Unless you come back to life, it's over. It's done with. There's no learning beyond the grave and no fixing your sins for a free pass to heave..."

I never thought of it in that way, but that's probably because I believe that even after we die we can still learn and grow. Can we attone for our sins? I don't know. The thing is, this book isn't religious even though it deals with death. Because of this, because Sam doesn't talk about Jesus, or Buddha, or any other deity, I didn't spend much time wondering if she went to heaven or not, because, for me, that wasn't the point of this book.

Before I Fall caused me to look at myself, to evaluate, to question who I am. It made me want to be a better person, to make better choices, to appreciate what I have because like Sam says, "you never really know".

The Groundhog Day thing: no one can totally fix all their wrongs in one day. That's impossible. But it is possible to start making things right. Sam had to change her ways to get out of "limbo" or whatever that was, but she had to have a change of heart as well. She also couldn't just be nice to that one girl (forgot her name as it has even a while since I read this book) out of the blue because after years of abuse she wasn't going to trust Sam or any of the girls in that group, nor was she likely to forgive any of them. This is why the flowers weren't the right answer, this is why the second to last day wasn't successful. Sam had to pay the ultimate price, she had to save her.

Why Sam? Well, it seems to me that she's the only one who would have done it, who was capable of figuring it out, not to mention her time was up.

I get what you're saying about religion, about how it is tricky to read book that deals with these issues (death, redemption) and not think about the afterlife, about God, about religion--I have similar issues when it comes to Angels in YA fiction (hint: it doesn't sit well with me at all because I cannot imagine an angel falling in love with a random teenage girl and having sex, or whatever. Especially if God doesn't seem to know or care. Plus, how sacreligious!)

Does any of this make sense? I'm feeling sort of scatterbrained right now so my thoughts are all over the place.

message 28: by Scott-robert (new)

Scott-robert Shenkman No, it totally makes sense. And I get it.

And I don't read books about angels either. In the Jewish religion, angels are SCARY. Sometimes they even have to act in the guise of God (Jacob's ladder). In my religious view, angels don't exist with out God, and they sure don't have sex. That is sacreligious. They are cute fluffy little cherubs either.

I'm not sure how to explain it. I know what the ending is (someone spoiled it). So I just can't wrap my head around someone trying to fix things so that they can move on (and really, in my (religious) view, spirits can't exist apart from God - though I have been known to read a ghost romance or two - but they have to come back to life!

Don't get me wrong - I don't care what anyone reads. The beauty of freedom. But I just stary away from stories that go against my beliefs. Yet I say this, but I have read several Christian-themed novels - because they exist within the framework of a theology I understand.

Andria You wrote an awesome review for a book that you obviously love. It shines through with every word.

Kirsten Amazing review job well done this really reflects the book!

message 31: by Kyra (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kyra perfect review! well done

Kylie You should write more positive reviews where you like the book. This review is amazing.

Rachel Marie A-effing-men.

Steph after reading your review, and the review of many others, it's quite obvious that Oliver captures an emotion that seems to still be quite fresh for many readers; the angst of surviving high school and all of our transformations. Your review gets a that talent that Oliver possesses, which is making the reader identify with the villain/hero.

message 35: by Radhiya (new) - added it

Radhiya woow. it is abeautiful book lol

message 36: by Cherie (new) - added it

Cherie Awsome review! Your heart was in it and I am convinced I really need to read this book because of it. Thank you!

message 37: by Margaret (new)

Margaret im very confuzed about the ending...

message 38: by Lalaxbrazil (new)

Lalaxbrazil You made me want to read the book.
You're an amazing writer.

message 39: by Soetan (new)

Soetan Joanne Am I the only one who goes to a high school with absolutely no popular girls and no bullies? No excessive parties and drinking? No smoking no sex? Sounds unbelievable but my high school life is this way and it's never boring. I won't trade it for another.

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