Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Samantha Kingston is the girl you love to hate: she has popular friends, a good family, looks, the hot boyfriend. Then she dies in a car crash one night—only to wake up the next morning, to redo the day of her death over and over again. Each little decision she makes ends up having a bigger effect on the day’s outcome than she could’ve imagined, however, and in the process Sam learns that it’s never too late to change…especially if it means she can save someone else’s life.
It’s hard to believe that this is Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, that’s how excellent this book is. This 470-page novel is smoothly written, wonderfully developed, and never ever dull, enthralling all the way through.
From the first page, Lauren Oliver’s assured writing sucks you in and never once lets go. The transformation from writer to character is effortless: Samantha and all her friends are pitch-perfect teenagers, without any of the try-too-hard fakeness often exhibited by YA mean girls. Instead, every character has their good and bad points, and even though these girls may not necessarily be nice, we still are interested in them, and care for them, because they are just like us, or our neighbor, or our friend, or that girl in our class.
Each time Sam relives her last day, she gets to know different people differently, learns something new about herself. It says a LOT about Lauren’s writing skill that the book never gets dull. The pages fly by in smooth reading, and Sam’s development from mean girl to, well, not-so-mean girl is so subtle that you’ll find yourself falling for her and/or cheering for her even as she messes up or reveals unlikable aspects about her character.
Even if BEFORE I FALL is not action-packed, it’s full of such careful observations about teenage nature and our ability to change that it’s literary gold: you’ll treasure the first time you read through it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to pick it up and read it again immediately after you finish it. It’s not often that a debut novelist instantly becomes one of my favorite authors (I usually give it two books before I call favorites), but Lauren Oliver’s incredible novel has made me a fan of hers for life. I’ll read anything she writes from now on, even if she chooses to write about zombie/werewolf mutants—because she has the power to make fiction real.
Gayle Forman (If I Stay)
Amy Huntley (The Everafter)
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 2 out of 5 - Ehhhh... I have to admit it doesn't work for me. There's something rather fake and...dead-ish about the model's pose and expression. Luckily this book doesn't need a stunning cover to make the NYTimes bestseller list, and I'd read it regardless of what cover it has!!
HarperCollins / March 2, 2010 / Hardcover / 470pp. / $17.99
ARC received at NCTE.