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31 March 2011

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver


It's not often that a book that leaves me with more questions than answers is actually a very, very good thing.

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver sits in my category of "I Wish This Had Been Written When I Was a Teenager." It's uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and disturbing, but with a powerful message that's rendered me speechless. While at just under 500 pages, this weighty chunkster of a novel reads quickly and pulls at your heart, along the way forcing you to look at your own life and question the whys and why nots of your own choices.

Sam is a senior in high school and is one of a group of four girls that are the most popular. If you're not in their social status, then you probably want to be noticed by them, but would be terrified if they did. Sam, Lindsay, Elody, and Ally are best friends and live their lives where drinking, flirting with teachers, and casual sex is the norm, as is ridiculing anyone labeled a "freak." How can they get away with it? There must be some rule book that to be popular in high school, you have to be just plain mean. But, tonight is Friday, and it's time for the party everyone is going to. It will be a night of drinking, picking on a couple of people, and even the tension of Sam possibly losing her virginity to the hottest guy in school won't slow them down. The night ends with all four girls leaving the party and before they know it, they're in a brutal car accident and Sam didn't make it. She died in the car, but she's actually still living. Living that very last day, each mean act, over and over again.

Well. To live each day the same as the next? That would certainly put a pretty big magnifying glass over every single final action. Living a life in analysis is a gift, but if you were mean and living the same exact day over and over and over... it would be an absolute curse. You'd be exposing some awful things, see yourself in a way you might not like, that could make you just hate yourself. What I thought was even more fascinating about this book is that it also brings to mind another thought about the whole high school dynamic - on the surface, one might be a villain, but it's also very possible that they could be just as mixed up and confused about their own lives as the ones they pick on. The bully might be a bully, but the bully might be every bit as insecure as the next high school kid. How can they unwrap themselves out of the never-ending repetition of being mean? Unbeknownst to them, their one mean action, seemingly forgettable to them at the time, could have a ripple effect that is unmeasurable.

I walked away with so many questions, specifically one we should all ask ourselves. If you were to die today, would you be proud of the way you treated others?

I would recommend this to absolutely anyone. Parents, as always though, I'd suggest you read it first before giving to your kids to read, but I would probably bet that a sixteen-year-old would completely relate to a lot of the situations in this book. Lauren Oliver isn't afraid to tap into some of the very things that are nonchalantly brushed off and taken advantage of. While capturing young life so authentically, she's made it okay to remind yourself to do the things we can so easily forget. Think about it. And make good choices.

One of my favorite passages:
As I head up from the gym it strikes me how strange people are. You can see them every day - you can think you know them - and then you find out you hardly know them at all. I feel exhilarated, kind of like I'm being spun around a whirlpool, circling closer and closer around the same people and the same events but seeing things from different angles. (p. 159)
Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick

About the Author
Lauren Oliver was previously an editorial assistant at a publishing company in New York. A graduate of the University of Chicago and the MFA program at New York University, she is now a full-time writer and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Before I Fall is her first novel and Delirium is her second.

Visit the author's website by clicking here.
Visit the author on Facebook by clicking here.

23 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you liked this! I just thought it was one of the best books I read all year! And what I liked best was just what you mentioned - that it gets you to take a look at your own life and reevaluate. Awesome review! By the way I just read a review of a new book on literature that defines "literary" writing as "a book of questions rather than answers." I thought that was perfect, and is so applicable to this book!

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  2. Everyone seems to love this book. It sounds fabulous!

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  3. I keep hearing good things about this book. I'm putting it on my "to read" list now!

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  4. I really liked this one, far more than Delirium!

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  5. There are SO many books I wish had been written when I was a teenager, or when I was a little girl. I hope I can remember all the titles when I read them now, so I can give them to my eventual kids.

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  6. Oh man, I just returned this one to the library because I thought, "I won't get to this any time soon. I'll just read it later." Whoops! Back onto the waiting list I go. At least it's a short list!

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  7. I loved this book too!! And I love that quote!

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  8. I listened to this one on audio and just couldn't connect with her. I didn't feel any emotions listening to it. I think many things contributed to that and most had nothing to do with the book. I'm among the majority that did not think this book was great and I think if I actually read it instead of listened to it, I might have had a different opinion of the book.

    Moving on, do you remember the store White's Bookstore in either San Marco or Avondale, their was one in Baymeadows for awhile and one at Atlantic Beach in the strip center on the left with what used to be Joanne's fabrics and a Publix? If you do, I managed the Atlantic Bch store. But I worked at the San Marco store for the longest time. I started there. There is a store on St. John's Ave. in Avondale that is owned by the same people, Debbie White. I don't think they carry books anymore, just high priced toys. I loved the San Marco store.

    Heather
    See, I don't ever come over to your blog and I still have to put my Fool for Books Post up!

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  9. Great review. I've heard of this but it's been a while so I wasn't sure what it was about anymore.... this is going on the read list, for sure. I've been dying for a good YA novel to tide me over till Sarah Dessen's new one comes out in may.

    -- ellen

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  10. Totally agree with you...I could have used some tough love like this in high school. Definitely one of the best books I read last year. I did let my daughter read it as well...there were some good lessons in there, and why not to introduce them to her before it is too late?

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  11. I have heard so many great things about this book, and even at book club last night, the girls were raving about it. I can't ignore it anymore, and am going to grab my copy today. It sounds like it really grabs and holds it's readers, and if there's one thing I need right now is a book that will brook no distractions. Beautiful review, Natalie!

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  12. Loved your review of this book - it makes me want to read it NOW! And I want to get a copy for my younger cousin. This book sounds like such a good read - so glad you reviewed it, because now I know about it. Thanks!!

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  13. this book left me feeling raw, my emotions spilled out across the pages through my tears....i cannot even begin to tell you how much i loved this book...beautiful review....i'm glad you enjoyed it thoroughly too

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  14. Isn't she just awesome. She is such a warm and wonderful person in real life too.

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  15. This one has been sitting on my shelf for such a long time and I've been meaning to read it, but can't seem to find a good day to get started. I've seen mixed reviews, mostly based upon Sam as a character, but it's good to see that her actions and her emotions really affected you. I'm hoping to read it soon. Great review :)

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  16. O wow. What a good question. Definitely something to think about. Great review.

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  17. Sounds like a thoughtful book. I'll waiting for this one at my library.

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  18. Sounds so interesting. I'm putting this on my list for summer vacation reading! Thanks!

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  19. Well I think I need to read this and then give it to my teenage cousin or vice versa!

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  20. I think I would have enjoyed this too as a teenager and read it over and over...

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  21. I loved this one and wish I could have read it all those years ago when I was in high school. I certainly wasn't a mean girl but I think the book would have made me think a lot harder about my choices at that age. Glad you enjoyed it too.

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  22. I've had this book on my shelf for ages - why do I keep not reading it? Great review and it has just bumped the book a few notches further up my pile too :-)

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  23. I have this sitting on my shelf waiting to get read. Good review, I think I might have to bump this one up the TBR pile.

    I loved her more recent book - Delirium, have you read it?

    Jules

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