Before I Fall

Before I Fall

4.4 1998
by Lauren Oliver
     
 

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What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High, from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday,

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Overview

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High, from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12 should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Fortunately, she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Editorial Reviews

Jay Asher
“This story races forward, twisting in a new direction every few pages, its characters spinning my emotions from affection to frustration, anger to compassion. You’ll have no choice but to tear through this book!”
Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (starred review)
“Samantha’s attempts to save her life and right the wrongs she has caused are precisely what will draw readers into this complex story and keep them turning pages until Sam succeeds in living her last day the right way.”
ALA Booklist
“Oliver, in a pitch-perfect teen voice, explores the power we have to affect the people around us in this intensely believable first novel...This is a compelling book with a powerful message and should not be missed.”
VOYA - Teri S. Lesesne
Samantha is dead, killed in a car accident after a Valentine's Day party. As her life ends, events from her childhood play out in front of her. She is dismayed to watch her own casual cruelty to others flash in front of her. Her life was definitely not supposed to end this way; however, the next morning Sam is back in her bed with the alarm ringing. Was the accident all a nightmare? Sam struggles to understand exactly what has happened. She has been given the chance to live that last day of her life over and over again. Gradually she comes to understand that it is the small things, the seemingly unimportant decisions she makes, that have the gravest consequences. It would be easy to label this story a young adult version of Groundhog Day. Oliver's creation of multidimensional characters, especially Samantha, and her skilled examination of how even inconsequential things affect the lives of those around Sam transform this book from predictable and perhaps even formulaic into an evocative look at life and death. Samantha's attempts to save her life and right the wrongs she has caused are precisely what will draw readers into this complex story and keep them turning pages until Sam succeeds in living her last day the right way. Reviewer: Teri S. Lesesne
Children's Literature - Heidi Hauser Green
It is a truism that every high school has a clique of popular mean girls. Samantha Kingston is in that clique. With her fellow seniors and long-time friends Lindsay, Elody and Ally, Samantha rules the school. One day is just like the next, with Samantha doing what she wants, taking what she wants, and disregarding the people left in her wake. Then, on February 12, everything changes. Leaving a party with her friends, Samantha dies in a car crash—or does she? She awakens in her bed. But something isn't right. It's not February 13; it is the 12th again. Over and over, seven times, she relives her last day. Through the process, she comes to realize all that she has lost, all that she can gain, and what is worth saving. The plot is unusual and thought-provoking, and teenagers who are fascinated by questions of life and death will enjoy the book for that. The book's most remarkable feature, though, is Lauren Oliver's account of Samantha's growth over the course of that very strange week. In the beginning, we can't like her. She is thoroughly repugnant. We have trouble caring about her, apart from her tragic end. By the end, we are rooting, passionately, for her to live. It's rare for an author to manage such a thorough character transformation believably, but Oliver does. Librarians may wish to exercise some caution in choosing this book for younger readers, as it includes themes of alcohol use and teenage sexuality. Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—In the blink of an eye, popular high school student Samantha Kingston loses her life. What should have been a fantastic day turns out to be the beginning of a horrific afterlife experience. In the wake of a fiery car crash, Sam wakes up on Friday, February 12th again, and again, and again—reliving her last day seven times. At the beginning, she is her usual obnoxious, thoughtless, and reckless self, but the teen is gradually transformed over the week. Sarah Drew narrates Lauren Oliver's powerful debut novel (HarperCollins, 2010), bringing Sam's voice to life with brilliant execution. She matches every nuance of Sam's character, easily transitioning from mean girl through stages of anger, moroseness, hopelessness, and regret, until she reaches a state of acceptance. The secondary characters are interestingly voiced. The story will instantly capture listeners, and the outstanding narration makes it potentially one of the best audiobooks of the year. A must-have for public libraries and high school collections, though schools should be aware that there are scenes with both sexual situations and teen drinking.—Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, New Britain, CT
Publishers Weekly
Beautiful, popular Samantha and her three best friends are the ruthless queen bees of their high school. But Samantha is living a nightmare: throughout the book, she relives the day of her death seven times, with some dramatic alterations and revelations depending on her choices—ditching school to spend time with her younger sister or, on a day when life’s rules have all but lost their meaning, seducing a teacher. She faces the often tragic consequences of even the smallest acts, awakens to the casual cruelties all around her, and tries to get things right and maybe even redeem herself. If this sounds too much like a Groundhog Day–style plot, make no mistake: evocative of Jenny Downham’s Before I Die, Oliver’s debut novel is raw, emotional, and, at times, beautiful (“It amazes me how easy it is for things to change,” Samantha thinks. “how easy it is to start off down the same road you always take and wind up somewhere new”). Samantha’s best friends are funny, likable, and maddening, but readers will love Samantha best as she hurtles toward an end as brave as it is heartbreaking. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
When your novel's heroine opens the story as a popular, mean highschooler, the story will be one of two things: a paean to Dolce & Gabbana or a tale of redemption. Sam's story is of the latter kind: a Groundhog Day-style repeated day she must relive until she gets it right. With each repeat, she changes something in her relationships-to her family, to the cruelty of her queen-bee friends, to her lecherous boyfriend, to the hot math teacher and to the countless nerds, dorks and freaks she's always abused or ignored. If she can just get it right, Sam thinks, she'll be freed from her loop and can move on with her life. Within this predictable framework Oliver builds a quietly lyrical story of selfhood and friendship, avoiding the obvious paths out of the time loop. Bill Murray's Groundhog Day character used his repeated day to learn French; Sam, more valuably, learns that life's composed of "little gaps and jumps and stutters that can never be reproduced." Unexpectedly rich. (Fantasy. 12-15)
Carolyn Mackler
“Before I Fall is smart, complex, and heartbreakingly beautiful. Lauren Oliver has written an extraordinary debut novel about what it means to live—and die.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061726804
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/02/2010
Pages:
470
Sales rank:
191,198
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.60(d)
Lexile:
860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Lauren Oliver burst onto the scene with her first novel, the New York Times bestseller Before I Fall. This was followed by her stunning Delirium, which ALA Booklist called "another deft blend of realism and fantasy." A graduate of the University of Chicago and the MFA program at New York University, Lauren lives in Brooklyn, New York. Liesl & Po is her first novel for younger readers.

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