Saturday, 11 September 2010

Book Review - Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver


They say 'live every day as if it's your last' -- but you never actually think it's going to be. At least I didn't. The thing is, you don't get to know when it happens. You don't remember to tell your family that you love them or -- in my case -- remember to say goodbye to them at all. But what if, like me, you could live your last day over and over again? Could you make it perfect? If your whole life flashed before your eyes, would you have no regrets? Or are there some things you'd want to change...?

Lauren Oliver did a wonderful job with this book. Every word, sentence and paragraph was just right. If one word had been different it wouldn’t have been the novel that it is. It’s deep, thought provoking and makes you sit back and think about the decisions you make in your life.

The story starts with Samantha Kingston living the last day of her life without her realising it. She goes about her business with her popular friends like there is always going to be a tomorrow to wake up to. Then she has to keep reliving that day, changing things and seeing the consequences every one of her actions have on the people around her. Everything is linked even when she doesn’t see it.

There are snippets of Sam’s life before Lindsay takes her in to the fold of the popular groups. That was when Sam was relatable and her own person. But as a popular person, she was a sheep, doing whatever it took to keep her place at the top of the hierarchy. For me, I really couldn’t relate to her then, as I’m not one to follow the crowd. I’m too stubborn for that. I would read the moments when she knew she could make a different decision but didn’t want to be seen to be the odd one and I wanted to scream at Sam to be her own person.

Even though I couldn’t relate, it shows what an extraordinary job Lauren has done with her characters.  They’re well-rounded with flaws and reasons for their behaviour, slowly making the reason people are the way they are, even when they are deliberately cruel. Constantly testing each other just to get a reaction. And there’s her ability to describe everything perfectly and set up scenes that aren’t needed, but at the same time they are needed because we all do some things in our lives that no one sees. Like when Sam stands in front of a mirror letting the steam from her shower slowly dissipate from it and she sees herself coming into view. Those were nice touches to get a real sense of who Sam really is away from her friends.

Unfortunately, this book is a year or two too late for me to make me think about the consequences of my actions. Things have already happened that make me realise how precious life is. That doesn’t take away from the story though because we watch Sam learn all this. It’s usually at her age they really do start to realise; we’re just seeing it at a moment where she’s had to learn in the extreme.

As I grew up in the UK school system, I’ve no idea what the American school system is like, so I couldn’t help but feel that the book was a mixture of the films Mean Girls and Groundhog Day. It was really unoriginal and predictable in that sense. When Sam starts her story on the last day of her life, and we meet her friends, from then on I constantly had the ‘Queen Bees’ in mind. That’s all I could think about whenever Sam et al did something cruel or shameful. That was the only thing stopping this book going on to my favourites list and getting a full score.

4/5

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