Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver

I read the first chapter of this book when it was featured at the back of Lauren Oliver's other YA book, Delirium (review) and liked the sound of it. I had actually seen it in my local library the week before and glanced at it...and not liking the sound of it too much.

But this chapter made this book seem like a typical contemporary book with a twist. Set in a high-school with the main character being one of the popular kids, falling in love, repeating the same day over and over again, the accident - perfect, I was hooked.
When I mentioned it on a On My Bookshelf (here), so many of my blogging friends told me this was a great book - as good as Delirium which I loved. So let's just say I had incredibly high expectations for this book. I wanted to love this.

Synopsis: Sam Kingston is one of those girls. She has it all - looks, popularity, the clothes, great friends, a perfect boyfriend. When she wakes up the first time on Friday 12th February - Cupid Day - she expects it to be as easy and good as normal with lots of roses being sent her way and a great party at the end of it where she will finally do it with her jock boyfriend, Rob. However, the ending isn't quite as she thought it would be. After a major car accident with her three best friends, Sam finds herself waking up at 6.30am, her sister coming in, Lindsay waiting to pick her up - and the day is Friday 12th February. Across seven days, Sam has to work out how work out what was happening in her life, how this happened and also, just live life.

Review: I really did want to love this book, like I did with Delirium and from reading the first chapter I felt I would be sucked in straight away. Nah-ah. That did not happen. I hate doing negative reviews in the fear I will sound too harsh or brash. But I just did not like this book - I'm entitled to an opinion.

The plot is simple. Sam gets (what we assume) killed in a freak car accident that included her three best friends when coming home in the early hours from a typical teenage house party. We all dream and wonder what would happen on the other side but for Sam, she experiences an unconventional idea of life on the other side. When Sam wakes up, there's no gates, God, angels or paradise. Nope, it's the morning of the day she gets killed and she has to re-live it over again. However, when a similar outcome happens at the end of this day, she is woken again. And again. And again on that morning of the day she died. It seems like she needs to work out what to do to prevent herself or another being killed because everyday someone is, even if it's not Sam.

Describing my reading experience with this book would look quite interesting on a graph as I had moments of enjoyment of this book as well as moments where I was thinking even Frankenstein was more thrilling than this (which is saying something). Like I said, the first chapter I thought was brilliant, drew me in and gave me a flavour of a contemporary style - this was a book centred around teenagers for teenagers and I was good with that.
However, it was on the second day that it all went down hill. The pace just slowed down so much and I felt I was struggling to get through the pages of this book. And the pace only really kicked back up for the last two days - Day 6 and Day 7 I found the most interesting and readable.
The other thing that annoyed me for the majority of the book, largely the middle was Sam. I felt no connection with her, like many other reviewers too. She was selfish, ignorant and I just wanted to slap her for pretending so much - even when she was dead! It is true that this is a book about her transformation into a person who does what they want, whatever the consequences and that message I did get from this book, although I don't think Sam changed all that much really - only on the surface.
For the plot, although I loved the clever idea that Oliver has originally invented, there was no clear structure to Sam's journey. I still have no idea whether she wanted to be in this limbo, neither dead or alive. I have no idea what the intention of this repeating of the day before her death was for - did this end when she did what she truly wanted? When she saved someone? When she helped a certain amount of people rather than herself? When she do a certain something? Did this happen only for Sam or does this idea happen to anyone? I have no clue and it could be an infinite amount of reasons at the end.

The ending, despite this ambiguity throughout the whole book that I felt should have been answered, was great and ends with a right and final feeling. The epilogue, although only a page long, really made me smile and think about what life could be after death - this is only one interpretation which could be valid. The ending is clever and I appreciated seeing the ending of Sam's journey to be firmly dead. To end it in a certain and special way getting and doing everything she wanted to do. It's fair to say that Sam is totally unrelatable throughout the whole book until the end, but even then for me, I still didn't understand or get her and still wanted to throw a shoe at her.

On a positive note, the idea is extremely clever, like I found Delirium. And this is the part I enjoyed the most about this book. I finished this book because I was intrigued to see what would happen, however infuriating Sam was or that I had no idea what the aim of this limbo period was really. If you did when reading this, let me know - maybe I just missed that part. I would interesting the mix of genres here. This book isn't quite dystopian because of the contemporary setting but then it isn't really contemporary because of the whole waking the day of your death thing.

Despite my negativeness, this book has scored some great reviews, although all of them agree with their hatefulness towards Sam at SOME point throughout the novel. I know that's the point blah-blah, but when you hate the main protagonist who is talking in first-person, it definitely decreases your enjoyment.
This is Oliver's debut to the world of YA and for me, it shows. Her other novel, Delirium is much better and sucked me in quicker and easier and this is the book I would recommend people interested in Lauren Oliver.
This book was a let down to say the least but I did enjoy parts such as the beginning and ending as well as the all the unique and stereotypical teenage secondary characters such as Kent and Ally, Lindsay and Elody (love that name!).
Perhaps I just expected too much.

I give a 3 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 470
Publisher: HarperCollins
Challenges: None

Related Posts:
Review: Delirium


  1. I know what you mean about expecting too much, that's what happened with me for a few books. It sounds really interesting though, I love books with themes of reliving the same day, like Groundhog Day. Thanks for sharing, it's great to read your review! ;) x

    1. Yeah I would definitely say give it a go - this is just one of those book I think that you either love it or hate it.
      I've also seen a lot of reviews comparing it to Groundhog Day so I presume if you like that, you'd like this?
      Thank you! x

  2. NOOOOOOOOO!! I love this book! LOL, but I do understand what you're saying. I didn't find it too slow-paced, but I can see why others may. Sam *was* annoying at points, but I loved her by the end.<3

    It's such a shame you didn't love this, but thanks for a wonderful review anyway, Rebecca.(:

    1. I know! I really wanted to love this book after your recommendation!
      She is, terribly so. But I didn't like her or connect with her enough throughout the book to like her also at the end which I think decreased my enjoyment.
      Thank you! I'm glad you liked it though :)

  3. Oh gosh, I know exactly what you mean, even in the end, the epilogue made me smile. But... I hated her guts till the very end. Man she was such a pain. You know when she dies and she`s like in the second or third chapter, ``I know I deserve it...`` I was just like `hell yah you do`, but then Lauren Oliver made me remember every bad thing I have ever done. Totally ruined the moment.

    Anyways, I wanted to tell you I mentioned this review on my blog. You were my featured blogger for this book.

    If you want me to remove it, no problem, just say it and it will be off in a heartbeat.

    1. Oh thank you so much! No, that's fine, I don't mind :)

      Exactly! You really want to hate her and after my bad experiences at school, I was like 'Finally the popular one is the person that dies' but then, she does make you think 'Hang on, what if that was me?!'. After reading a lot of reviews, she is a seriously hated character. Most people don't mind her at the end, but there is a small number who would agree with us.

      Thank you again!

    2. I actually `laughed out loud` during your reply. Yah you were right. Whatever review I read sheds at least a little light on her, especially at the end, but the majority they do not like her (cheers!). Thanks for letting me use your post (and for replying quickly!) :)


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