Monday, May 3, 2010

Before I Fall Review

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver
*March 2nd, 2010 HarperCollins

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—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

"What if?" is one of those questions - one of those concepts - that are so open-ended and so full of limitless possibility that there's no real answer. Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall is a contemplative exploration of this intriguing concept - and it explores this enigma mightily well.

Before I Fall is another one of those titles that has experienced a lot of hype, and lot of very positive early reviews. With these sorts, I'm always a little wary, because on some subconscious level, it elevates your expectations. You want to see if it lives up to its reputation, and you mostly certainly don't want to be disappointed.

One of Before I Fall's fortes is the way the character interactions play out, the way their relationships are conveyed. Sure, Sam and her friends aren't perfect people - but that's what makes them real, what makes them believable in the face of such a situation. The scenes between Sam and her little sister, Izzy, are particularly touching. And for many of us with siblings who are a fair few years younger, the bond conveyed is something we can relate to. This establishes a sense of immediacy and intimacy with the story, which is always great.

I'll admit - the book starts out a little slowly, and the first few days sort of meld into each other. Although I can see why they were necessary to set things up for the subsequent few days, it kind of still feels like the length could've been cut down a little. The first repeat especially, more suspension of disbelief was needed. Not for the situation, actually, but for Sam's behaviour. However, be sure to stick it out - because once Before I Fall gets going, it really gets going. With the combination of the engrossing plotline and Oliver's dynamic writing, Before I Fall takes on a magnetic pull, tugging the reader in just like its characters are endlessly being tugged together.

Another unique feature of Oliver's writing here is the interspersed interludes written in second person. As a reader, there is something very engaging - and simultaneously chilling - about being addressed directly by Sam. It makes you, the reader, a part of the story.

With the beginning of the novel, some of the changes from day-to-day, reliving-to-reliving, seemed to be a little bit too straight-forward, a little bit too cause-and-direct-effect. It would've been nice to see something a little more surprising, like "wow, I wouldn't have thought that such a small change could have such a big impact." Again, as the novel progressed, things got better - a lot better.The smaller details that came to light and became important, the way things were linked together, the way different aspects of characters were revealed... it was all brilliantly executed.

Kent McFuller, Juliet Sykes, Sam Kingston, her posse... the way that all the characters were intertwined and brought together was very interesting to explore. And the ending - wow! Definitely one that leaves you thinking, wondering, contemplating.

Thought-provoking and heartbreaking, Lauren Oliver has painted an exquisite portrait of a last day relived seven times, each time reflecting the rippling changes of small alterations.

1 comment:

elizabeth said...

Awesome review. I really enjoyed this book. I agree that the ending was very thought provoking.

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