Title: Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver
Publishing Info: March 3, 2010 by HarperCollins
Genres: Alternate Reality, Contemporary, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: April 5, 2013
Related Posts: Annabel (Delirium #0.5), Requiem (Delirium #3), Vanishing Girls, Panic
With this stunning debut novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver emerged as one of today's foremost authors of young adult fiction. Like Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why and Gayle Forman's If I Stay, Before I Fall raises thought-provoking questions about love, death, and how one person's life can affect so many others.
For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—"Cupid Day"—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.
However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.
My first impression of BEFORE I FALL is Groundhog’s Day meets Mean Girls but with a darker twist: Samantha Kingston is one of the popular girls… Until she dies on the night of February 12th and must relive the day over and over until she rights the wrongs of her life. I loved the beauty of Lauren Oliver’s writing in the DELIRIUM trilogy so I figured it was about time I got to her stand alone, BEFORE I FALL.
This is a tough book for me to review. I think this is another book that suffered from everyone else being in love with it and combine that with the fact that I expected to love it simply because it’s Lauren Oliver and I ended up with… disappointment. I did still enjoy the book and I love the concept, but as Rachel helped me realize, I don’t like the “mean girl” story lines in books. I know this story is about Samantha and trying to find a way to redeem herself from being that popular mean girl, but even still, it was hard for me to get on board with any of her friends who still were that way, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re hurting others, and the things that they do. So yeah, that was a BIG part of the book for me that was hard to stomach. Since the whole point of BEFORE I FALL is for Sam to right the wrongs of her world, I did end up liking her a whole lot more, but I still couldn’t say the same for her friends. But I mean, seriously. Mean Girls. Except instead of Candy Cane-grams, we have Vale-grams (or however it was spelled (SORRY, listened to the audio so I don’t know haha)).
I loved the Groundhog’s Day concept and how even though we’re reliving the same day over and over and over again, it’s always different, even if it’s the same setting. Sam finds different ways to relive her school day, different ways to change the party, different ways to interact with her friends, but she can only change HER part of it and the other people around her have the tendency to fall into the same routine that they do in every scenario. It was interesting to see what exactly Sam had to learn from each day and what she had to come up with to really make a difference.
The other thing I really liked was that it’s not obvious how the book is going to end. It starts with Sam dying and the day restarting, that we know, but I was never able to guess if she was going to snap out of this cycle of repetition and have a happy Bill Murray ending or if Sam’s destiny really is to die on February 12th regardless of the things she corrects. Up until the very last minute, I STILL didn’t know what was going to happen, so I loved that I was kept on the edge of my seat.
I liked the concept of BEFORE I FALL, but I just didn’t end up loving it as a book. I think there were too many “mean girl” moments that really prevented me for liking a lot of the characters so I found it hard for me to be on their side. It didn’t destroy the book for me but it really did prevent me from falling in love with it.
Narrator: Sarah Drew
Listening Time: 12 hours, 25 minutes
Source: Local library’s digital catalog
You may not know her name, but you know Sarah Drew — she’s famous for playing Dr. April Kepner on Grey’s Anatomy (among other things, but that’s where I know her from). I spent the first half hour of the audiobook wracking my brain because I knew that I knew the voice but couldn’t place it! I had to Google her name to figure it out!
Sarah Drew was very pleasant to listen to as Sam, but I can’t really say that I liked the way she voiced other characters. They were all very distinct which can be a challenge when you’re voicing four or five different female main characters, but some of them were distinct in… annoying ways. Lindsay’s voice was very deep which I guess could be logical, but for Lindsay, Elody, and Rob, the voices all sounded drunk or just plain unintelligent half of the time (even when they weren’t drunk, which actually was half of the time) so that was just kind of annoying to listen to. It’s one thing if a character is supposed to sound unintelligent, but too many of the characters were voiced as slow and vapid.
Sam went through a lot of changes and that was also noted in her change of tone so I felt like Sarah Drew did a really good job on that part. She has a really good voice that I could easily picture as a teenage since it’s relatively high pitched. (Sometimes I get frustrated when it’s a very adult voice doing the audio for a teen book.)
She also narrates the audiobooks for the Delirium series (also by Lauren Oliver) but I’m so glad I hadn’t listened to her voicing Lena. The voice just wouldn’t fit for me like it had fit so well for BEFORE I FALL.
Sam: I loved watching Sam’s realization of all of the things she needed to correct in her life and help correct in other people’s as well. It was a great story and really interesting to see how much she changed in that week that she was trapped in February 12th. I still didn’t totally feel for her character (it bothered me that she was teased so much as a kid BY LINDSAY and then ends up doing the same exact thing WITH Lindsay to other kids) but she did definitely redeem herself!
Lindsay: Hated her from start to finish. I just didn’t like her at all.
Juliet: I felt so, so bad for Juliet. She was definitely my favorite character because I could just see all the hurt and feel her pain. My heart went out to her the whole book.
I enjoyed the book but I was really hoping for more. It was definitely very different from the Delirium trilogy but I just wasn’t a huge fan of many of the characters so that made it hard for me.