They say that when you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me
Sam Kingston is dead. Except she isn’t.
There was such a huge buzz about this book, I was really excited to get started and settled down almost immediately with it. I was also a little bit worried. Had I set such a huge expectation against it after the reams of glowing reviews that I was going to be disappointed? Not a chance! This is a real, once every now and then, will completely blow you away book.
Sam isn’t immediately likable. She’s one of the popular girls, part of a group who sneer at and bully the classmates who, in their opinion, fall below them on the social ladder. Worse is that while not the leader or instigator, she’s a follower, and the followers are the ones who give the leader the power to carry on. But Sam wants to keep her popularity, so although she feels uncomfortable about things at times, she ignores this.
Sam’s first day, the day the accident happens, isn’t anything special really. It’s Cupid Day and roses are given out at school, meaning it’s a popularity contest to see who gets the most roses. This was an ingenious way to subtly introduce the complexities of school relationships and the hierarchy that exists within them as well as the importance of being popular, fitting in and the torture it can be when you don’t. Being from the UK the idea of Cupid Day intrigued me and I have to say, I’m glad it’s not something we did at school (only getting a Valentine from your mum was bad enough). The first fifty pages are a detailed description of a fairly normal and uneventful day, and without the blurb on the back or fantastic prologue you would be forgiven for thinking this was just a typical high school story. It isn’t until Sam starts reliving the day over and over that you realise how important those details in the first section actually are as they begin to intricately weave in and out of the story.
This becomes an incredibly thought provoking book. How much do our actions, no matter how mundane and throwaway they are, have on a bigger picture? Sam begins to realise that there’s a knock on effect for everything she does. The character development is fantastic as she faces each day with a changing attitude. With a first person narrative, I felt like I was right inside Sam’s head and really understood her, even when I didn’t agree with her. But its not just Sam’s character that grows throughout the book, that of her friends and peers do too, as we see them living the same day in different perspectives. Lauren Oliver injects many teen issues throughout, and treats them with great sympathy and understanding. A picture is slowly built up of a few different characters and their problems, which through Sam become interlinked. I also adored the romance too within the book, which was beautiful, tender and heartrending.
Before I Fall is truly a brilliant book. I really did have the feeling that I was reading something very special. Even though I knew the premise, I had no idea how things were going to end. Every page brings something new, is completely unpredictable and had me gripped. I’ve read a few reviews that say this book would make a brilliant movie, and I have to agree. It’s so visual I could picture it just reading. One thing I’m sure is that Lauren Oliver’s debut novel is going to be HUGE. This is so much more than a teen high school book, and is a perfect crossover book for adults too. It’s a very clever story of what ifs, redemption, appreciating what you have and discovering who you really are, even when it seems like it’s too late. I can’t imagine anyone not falling completely in love with Before I Fall and being so moved your still thinking about it days after finishing. The last time I was so completely blown away by a book was The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This is my Book of the year so far by a million miles, and really will take some beating!