Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Let me start by saying that I think I have been reading too much YA lately, and I think it’s wearing on me. However, objectively as a YA novel I give this 5 stars, as a novel (in general), I would give it 4 stars.
The plot follow Sam Kingston, who is basically Lindsay Lohan’s characters in Mean Girls. She has a cute boyfriend, three best friends, and they rule the school. On their way home from a party one night, their car crashes and Sam dies. But that is only where her story begins. For the next seven days Sam will relive February 12th, the day of the accident, as she struggles to figure out why she can’t stop reliving it, learns the circumstances of her untimely demise, and oddly enough… falls in love.
Sam takes one of the days to rebel: stealing her parents’ credit cards, dumping her boyfriend, doing drugs at school, making out with her math teacher. On another day she decides she needs to spend more time with her little sister and her family. Every “day” had me wondering if Sam is really dead, or if she is just in a coma, or she has come out of her coma and this day will be the one she doesn’t wake up from and will now have to live with the consequences of THESE actions. The first time Sam has to relive the night of the accident, she is mostly in denial. She lives the day the same way she did when she was still alive, and gets the same result. Eventually she begins to see that the smallest things can have profound changes. In the next few rounds of this day she realized that she is probably dead (hopefully in a coma) and should instead take that time to do some good (even though no one will remember it, or know it happened), and basically comes to terms with her actions, her life, and her death.
I think for a young adult this is a great story of how important it is to treat others well; to not judge people before getting to know them. To spend time with your family and loved one’s; and never take anyone or anything for granted. I think it generally has a very good theme of how to get out of the terrible mindset of high school and mentally become a well balanced adult.
Sam quickly learns that the feelings she has for her boyfriend are superficial – she just THINKS she likes him, because he’s cute and everyone else does. She sees that her friends really are Mean Girls, and how their behavior has deep effects on their peers around them.
Does Sam learn enough to redeem herself for the afterlife? I guess you’ll have to find some time to squeeze 500 pages of reading in to find out!