YA Friday: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Friday, June 03, 2011

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: YA
Publisher: Harper, 2010
Source: Library

Sam Kingston is living the high school dream - popularity, dating a boy she has liked since middle school, a tightly knit group of friends. However, it all comes crashing to a halt one night when Sam dies in a car wreck. She is forced to relive her last day seven times. Will changing her actions make a difference in what happened in the crash that night?

I really anticipated this book after enjoying Delirium so much. While I was a little worried about the repetitiveness of Sam living the same day seven times - Groundhog's day-esque stories that repeat over and over again tend to annoy me - Oliver was successful in keeping the events fresh despite the unchanging setting. I was constantly wondering what would happen next and whether Sam would be successful in saving herself from death. Suspense was layered very deftly despite the fact that I knew that certain events would occur.

Lauren Oliver also has a knack for manipulating my heart-strings. Not in a sentimental, rainbows and puppies way - a breathless, painful way. Just like Delirium, there were certain moments that were just crushing. This book is one of the few that has left me not only teary-eyed, but sobbing audibly, so it may sound contradictory when I say that I wasn't always emotionally invested in the characters. I feel like Oliver's talent lies in bringing the tension to a situation. I can imagine exactly how I would feel if I were in a similar situation, because the language is so evocative. However, Sam herself didn't really inspire much emotion in me. She was a spoiled little popular girl, not always easy to like because of her brattiness - but even her brattiness was not especially sharp, leaving me somewhat ambivalent toward her. I also had trouble believing in Sam's relationship with Kent, although I did like him. Their relationship seemed to develop too quickly to be believable, and while Oliver did drop in some details about a past friendship, I just couldn't believe that their relationship could have that much depth in that short amount of time (call it one day or seven). Although I didn't see their relationship as deep or likely, the chemistry between them was powerful, which I think further illustrates Oliver's talent at bringing the emotions in a scene to life, even if I don't love the characters.

The one character I really did love was Lindsay. She was multi-faceted, showing a reverse to every aspect of her personality. While she tormented her less-popular peers, she was willing to go through fire for her friends. While she exuded confidence, she was full of secret fears and insecurities. She was the epitome of a mean girl, but once her story was told it was impossible not to at least understand some of her motives. I thought she was wonderfully developed. I remember really enjoying Hana in Delirium - maybe Lauren Oliver is better at developing the best friend than the main character. Sometimes it is hard to get a multi-faceted view when the main character is narrating the story in first person.

This was an enjoyable story, difficult for me to put down. However, when it was finished I felt slightly let down. Despite the emotionally-charged scenes, I didn't feel fully invested in the characters. I certainly wouldn't tell people that they shouldn't read it - it was a great story. However, I didn't feel any overwhelming connection. I'd recommend this to someone looking for an easy but serious read.

Warnings for the sensitive reader: A few swears, casual talk about teenage sexuality

3 stars

And just because this song got stuck in my head every time I looked at the cover, I had to include it. It has nothing to do with the themes of the book... just the phrase "Before I Fall" in the lyrics. Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. I actually liked this one better than Delirium, but maybe that's because I read it first.


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