It's not often that a book that leaves me with more questions than answers is actually a very, very good thing.
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver sits in my category of "I Wish This Had Been Written When I Was a Teenager." It's uncomfortable, heartbreaking, and disturbing, but with a powerful message that's rendered me speechless. While at just under 500 pages, this weighty chunkster of a novel reads quickly and pulls at your heart, along the way forcing you to look at your own life and question the whys and why nots of your own choices.
Sam is a senior in high school and is one of a group of four girls that are the most popular. If you're not in their social status, then you probably want to be noticed by them, but would be terrified if they did. Sam, Lindsay, Elody, and Ally are best friends and live their lives where drinking, flirting with teachers, and casual sex is the norm, as is ridiculing anyone labeled a "freak." How can they get away with it? There must be some rule book that to be popular in high school, you have to be just plain mean. But, tonight is Friday, and it's time for the party everyone is going to. It will be a night of drinking, picking on a couple of people, and even the tension of Sam possibly losing her virginity to the hottest guy in school won't slow them down. The night ends with all four girls leaving the party and before they know it, they're in a brutal car accident and Sam didn't make it. She died in the car, but she's actually still living. Living that very last day, each mean act, over and over again.
Well. To live each day the same as the next? That would certainly put a pretty big magnifying glass over every single final action. Living a life in analysis is a gift, but if you were mean and living the same exact day over and over and over... it would be an absolute curse. You'd be exposing some awful things, see yourself in a way you might not like, that could make you just hate yourself. What I thought was even more fascinating about this book is that it also brings to mind another thought about the whole high school dynamic - on the surface, one might be a villain, but it's also very possible that they could be just as mixed up and confused about their own lives as the ones they pick on. The bully might be a bully, but the bully might be every bit as insecure as the next high school kid. How can they unwrap themselves out of the never-ending repetition of being mean? Unbeknownst to them, their one mean action, seemingly forgettable to them at the time, could have a ripple effect that is unmeasurable.
I walked away with so many questions, specifically one we should all ask ourselves. If you were to die today, would you be proud of the way you treated others?
I would recommend this to absolutely anyone. Parents, as always though, I'd suggest you read it first before giving to your kids to read, but I would probably bet that a sixteen-year-old would completely relate to a lot of the situations in this book. Lauren Oliver isn't afraid to tap into some of the very things that are nonchalantly brushed off and taken advantage of. While capturing young life so authentically, she's made it okay to remind yourself to do the things we can so easily forget. Think about it. And make good choices.
Sam Kingston, one of the popular girls at her high school, dies in a car accident and must relive the same day every day until she gets it "right." This is a Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls type of story. I loved it. Really shows you how your actions, no matter how small, really do have consequences. Read it in 2 days.
This story is well done. It was somewhat difficult in the beginning because the protagonist and the high school clique she was a part of are just abhorrent, but that is part of the point of the story. As she experiences the same day with different actions and consequences, she begins to grow and change. The chapters are long, because each one is the whole day (chapter one is day one, chapter 6 is day 6, etc.). I loved what she found in her search for herself in the end. Unique and moving overall.
I think this book was a great concept to teach readers what an impact our decisions and treatment of others can make. I however would not let my "youth" daughter read this, as it talks of teenage drinking, sex, drugs, etc as if there is nothing wrong with it and is the "norm" for teens. I do not think they need any more encouragement:) It is disappointing I cannot let me children read it, because it is a powerful message about how we should treat others. I, as an adult, thoroughly enjoyed the book and I would recommend to any adult