Book Club – Before I Fall

July 8, 2010

Before I Fall By Lauren Oliver

Published By Hodder and Stoughton RRP $29.99

“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.
On a rainy February night, eighteen-year-old Sam is killed in a horrific car crash. But then the impossible happens: she wakes up in her own bed, on the morning of the day that she died.

Forced to live over and over the last day of her life – the drive to school, skipping class, the fateful party – she desperately struggles to alter the outcome, but every morning she wakes up on the day of the crash. This is a story of a girl who dies young, but in the process learns how to live. And who falls in love . . . a little too late.

Shesaid Says: This is an amazing first novel by a talented young woman, Lauren Oliver. You will find yourself laughing, cringing and feeling such sadness for Sam Kingston the main character, so much so that you will hardly believe this is a debut novel. Unusually profound for someone so young, Lauren Oliver is only 25 years of age but has wisdom beyond her years. Not a normal, run of the mill every day story of young girl who dies before her time, this novel forces Sam to live over her last day again and again, all as she desperately tries to alter her own fate.

This is such an interesting concept. This book will leave you thinking, perhaps nostalgically about your school years and the friendships, the cat fights, and the love and passion we all endured in those teenage years but it will also make you remember the peer group pressure, the bullying, the nastiness, the drinking and yes the misguided belief that we are all bullet proof at that age.

Critics are calling it a cross between “Mean Girls” and “Groundhog Day” which underestimates the intensity of feelings in this first time novel. Don’t be surprised if you hate this book in parts and love it in other parts, be frustrated by it but bet you can’t put it down or stop thinking about it long after you have eventually finished it!

In a recent interview Lauren Oliver described Samantha as:

I meant Sam to be a character who would represent, in some ways, the worst tendencies in all of us, at least at the start of the novel. She isn’t evil; she’s just insecure. Like many of us, her desire to belong, to “fit in” and be regarded well by her peers, supersedes or trumps her knowledge of what is right or good or kind or charitable. In other words, she would rather be popular than be a good person. Her meanness stems, essentially, from insecurity; she is unwilling to take a stand against behaviors she knows to be wrong, because she fears it will make her disliked. And as much as we can impugn her or dislike her, my hope in writing her character was that we could all recognize ourselves in her, at least a bit. Everyone—even the absolute best people in the world—have been in situations where they have ignored or turned away from doing what is right because they feared making a scene, or because they just wanted to go with the flow, or because they were able to justify their detachment as harmless (Sam, for example, believes that because she goes along with the cruelty rather than instigating it, she’s not doing anything that bad).

Similarly, I wanted Sam’s development and growth as a character to be a reflection of the attributes I see as universal: the capacity for real change; the ability and desire to empathize, and give, and even sacrifice; the potential for true goodness and kindness that is certainly available to all of us, no matter what our circumstances. Other than that, you know, she likes boys but is confused and scared about sex; she stresses about pimples and the fact that her butt is too “square” (an imagined insecurity); she probably loves Twilight and she definitely loves staying out too late. All in all, a typical senior!

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. She divides her time between Brooklyn, New York, and anywhere her friends will let her crash on their sofas.

Read it? What did you think?

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