Before I Fall Book Review

They say that just before you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.

pg 3

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I read this so long ago. So many moons ago. I ended up paying a bunch of money in fines because I kept it from the library for so long. Because I loved it so much…

Yeah, okay. So you know how I read a lot? Like, a lot a lot? Like, half of the books I read I don’t even review because there’s just too many, a lot?

Yeah. When you’ve entered so many worlds and stories, they start to become a little repetitive– well the less creative ones do. I think that’s most prominent in the YA genre, ’cause it’s so full of fads and stuff. Once upon a time all the stories were vampires; now they’re all dystopias.

Anyways, through my years I’ve read many in the high school story genre. But this one stuck out. I would definitely count it among the best of the genre. Let’s get into why.

So first, the story is told in first person by Sam Kingston, one of the popular girls at school. She goes to a party one night where she dies. But instead of passing on into whatever comes next, she gets another try at life, a few more attempts to relive her last day and try to make things right.

At first glance, I thought I’d read this story before somewhere. I mean, pretty girl dies and learns the real meaning of life before coming back by some heavenly gift at the end? That’s basically what you’d expect from that summary, right? Average characters, average story, average book? Right? Riiiiight?

Well, you’re wrong. I was so very wrong.

This is not the story where the pretty popular girl grows a heart. This is not a story where redemption is obvious and easy. This is not a story where everyone lives .

That last one is a byproduct of too much Doctor Who. But it’s true nonetheless.

Sam, our main character and narrator, is perfect. Well, I mean, she’s totally flawed, but in terms of character and realism, she’s perfect. It’s hard to get teen speak down properly. To translate everything that is pubescent into words. I don’t really know of any author that does it really well, except for maybe John Green, but that’s probably because he has robots inside our heads. There’s no other explanation for his book quality.

Oliver must have some too. She has to. I mean, she got our language down. Like, spot on. Just, it was there. On the pages. Everything dumb and slightly homophobic that teens say, it was all there. The dialogue was true to character all the way. Also, when Sam had to reflect deeply on things, it didn’t transport me back in time. She still sounded like herself, not like someone who was possessed by the ghost of Shakespeare and can’t help by speak in ye olde language about the moon. Or some crap like that. Basically, Sam sounded like a teen all the time, and though she went from being a sheltered, slightly childish teen, to a more adult-like person, she didn’t sound old. Do you get what I’m saying? Or am I just rambling.

Yeah, I’m rambling.

The other nice thing about the writing was that it wasn’t moany or dull. I mean, the character dies in the first few pages and then we spend the rest of the book reliving the same day. That could get boring very quickly.

But it didn’t. Each chance was fresh and interesting and the character changed at a very realistic pace. A lot of times, especially in tacky teen movies, people just suddenly snap out of their awful personalities and let’s face it: that never happens. Sam made a lot of mistakes when she tried to make things better and it all helped her grow, but she never stopped being herself fundamentally.

Wait, though. I don’t really think I’ve explained who Sam is fully. She’s the popular girl, I’ve said that. She’s got a popular group of friends and they all hang out. Every school has people like this, people who are better looking than the average person. But in books, they’re always awful. Well, Sam’s a little mean in the way that all kids are. I suppose she’s more than a little mean, but she doesn’t see consequences. That is her biggest flaw, I think.

Keeping on subject though, she and her friends were real friends. Do you know what I mean? People always say that “popular” kids are fake. What makes them fake? It’s like calling a model fake cause she’s not fat. Being different doesn’t make Sam and her friends any less real, and just because they gossip a little more or laugh a lot doesn’t mean they don’t all honestly care for each other. I think a lot of authors push the bad personalities onto “popular” kids because that’s the easy thing to do. But, as shown here, it’s a far better read when you treat them like real people and explore their emotions. Popular kids can be fascinating, and with this book, I think more so than the pretty ugly-girl or the cute nerd-boy.

So what I’ve been trying to say for the past two paragraphs is that Sam is a popular girl, yes, but her life isn’t shallow. So when I say that she remains true to herself, what I mean is that she doesn’t give up her friends in some bold self-renovation because her life is so surface. They are her friends. So she keeps them around.

That simple aspect is definitely part of what made this book so good. It wasn’t clichéd. At all.

Another thing that made it great was that Sam started liking this guy. He was basically the cutest thing, but he didn’t start out that way, not in Sam’s eyes at least. His name is Kent and he was a bit of a weirdo. But the more Sam got to know him, the more appealing he became and just following their quasi-relationship  was probably one of the most adorable things I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. My point being, this was a very natural development and I loved it.

Okay, let’s see. I’ve rambled about language, I’ve confused you with friendship, I’ve gushed about romance. What else is there? I said the plot/pacing was good, I recall that. I suppose the only left to talk about is the ending.

Which was great. It’s not what you would expect. Though after reading this review, perhaps you now expect it. In that case, I’ll make that statement personal: it was totally not what I expected. I really thought it was going to be cliché, but it wasn’t. It was a great ending to a fantastic little book.

Oliver also wrote the Delirium book, which was a lesser novel in my opinion. It’s going to be a series, but honestly, I wish this was the one that I got more of. Like I said, it’s one of the best genre pieces I’ve read in a long time. Guys, it was really, really good.

Ri’s Rating:


0. Couldn’t get past chapter one for fear of wanting to kill myself. Book induced suicide…

1: Yuck. Ew. Below Average. Probably didn’t even read the middle and skipped to the end.

2. Ok. Would’ve been better if I’d written the ending and everything else.

3. Not bad at all. Very enjoyable. Quite nice. Recommendable.

4. My kind of book. Near ideal, but something was a little off (annoying names, bad ending, that sort of thing).

5. WOW. Makes me wonder why people watch T.V when this is out there. Really liked it. Don’t expect to see this often.

6 and above. What I want my book to be.

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  1. You’ve got a harsh rating system here! only 3.5 out of 5? your review makes it sound a lot higher. I actually purchased this one, i loved delirium and i have heard even better things about this, your thoughts included, so I’m excited to pick it up in the future :)

    • Ri

       /  June 18, 2011

      It was so much better than Delirium! I thought that one was a little less interesting because I felt like I already knew what was going to happen. But this was good.

      Yeah, about the rating, well, I have three things for people to judge by. The review I give it, where I dicuss all aspects of the book. Then there’s the actual rating, which is done in comparison to all other books out there. So while it’s a brilliant genre piece it wasn’t hugely profound. Considering it’s being compared agains everything, 3.5 is actually pretty good! Then I have the categories on the review page, which are not related to anything but how much I liked the book and how much I will read it in my lifetime.

      So, it did quite well, really, but I can see what you mean. Sometimes I rave about books and give them a 3, but then I stick them in the highly recommended section. Yeah. It’s confusing, but read this one. That’s basically my point here. I know you’ll like it!

      • Oh that makes more sense. When I rate books I definitely don’t compare them to everything else out there or I think much of what I read would get ones and twos compared to my absolute favourite books. I am glad you highly recommend this though, I am certainly looking forward to pick it up soon. I have heard a couple people lament that Oliver will be busy writing the Delirium sequels the next couple years and from what you said, it does seem disappointing it’ll be awhile before we get something different from her. She does have an MG coming out though, I may look into reading that.

  2. Passion

     /  June 18, 2011

    your rating system is awesome btw
    but i saw this book in the store when melo was buying some book about peculiar children and i liked the cover. now i actually wanna read this.
    plus, hey, kent. like clark. i’m all over that.
    watched the glee project. have you yet?

  3. Savanna

     /  July 8, 2012

    I love this book and Lauren Oliver, and I just wanted to give a fun fact. I got to meet Oliver at a reading once and she told us that the person on the cover of this book is actually a little boy. Hehe.

    • Ri

       /  July 8, 2012

      That’s so weird– he looked just like I imagined the main character lol. Thanks for commenting and I hope you visit again soon :)

  4. Savanna

     /  July 8, 2012

    I know I was so surprised! Oh I will, your reviews are awesome and I have comprised a list of books I now want to read haha :)

  1. Never Too Fond of Books » Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

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