Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Release Date: 2 March 2010
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Page Count: 341
Before I Fall is basically Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls by way of The Lovely Bones – the tale of bitchy popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, and what happens in the recurring days after her sudden and unpredictable death. It explores the relationship with her family; her boyfriend Rob, who only wants her for one thing; her rocky friendship with BFF Lindsey, the school queen bee; and the secrets revolving around the most bullied girl in school, Juliet.
Before I Fall at first seems like the kind of book you may not want to continue reading: in lesser hands, our main character wouldn’t learn anything and wouldn’t change for the better. There wouldn’t be a sweet developing romance between her and another guy who has no idea each day restarts for Sam. There wouldn’t be the exploration of deeper character issues and the ongoing lives of secondary characters, all encompassed in Sam’s butterfly-effect.
Luckily, Lauren Oliver is a master storyteller, even in her debut novel. Yes, Sam is absolutely horrible to begin with: she’s a remorseless bully and sheep, following queen bee Lindsey and terrified of being dropped, of not being popular and feared. She’s filled with self-doubt and lashes out at other people. She’s unsure of whether she wants to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, who keeps his eyes open when they make out and can’t work her bra.
But the beauty is in watching her realise what is going on as her first day repeats itself. In watching her rebel and not give a fuck, because she’s trapped in this cycle and the day’s just going to repeat anyway. In watching her realise what it is she has to do. And most of all, the beauty is in watching her change from Samantha King, bitchy popular girl, to Samantha King, decent person. She can’t fix everything, and she can’t atone for other people’s actions, but she does have control over what she does. There’s a certain recklessness in knowing the consequences of your actions won’t extend to the next day. That this day is your last on earth.