In Before I Fall, eighteen year old Samantha Kingston leads a perfect life. Sam has everything: a great boyfriend, a group of close girlfriends, and whatever she wants in life. She cruises through her days of senior year without a care in the world.
Sam thinks the world revolves around her and she isn’t shy to let people know. Her and her friends are the Mean Girls of their school, taunting and belittling others who they think are beneath them.
But everything changes one day when Sam gets into a car accident and wakes up in the morning…on the same day she died. With seven days, Sam is given seven chance to rectify her mistakes as she tries to figure out the events surrounding her death, and maybe even save the life of a girl who commits suicide.
The instant comparison to this book, at least in my mind, was If I Stay. Both stories are about young teens who die due to unfortunate circumstances, but get another chance to look at their lives. But that’s where the similarities end.
Unlike Mia, who is kind and lovely and the perfect daughter, Sam is mean. She’s part of a group of girls who think they rule the school, and they bully their way through life. Sam may not always actively participate in her friend’s taunts and bullying, but by laughing and remaining passive, she hurts others.
I didn’t like Sam a bit, in the beginning of the book. I found her woe-is-me attitude annoying, and I found her to be petty and mean, and extremely naive for assuming that the world follows the same clique pattern as high school. She didn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities, and she got on my nerves.
But through little details that Oliver provided throughout the narrative, I came to see under all the layers of Sam Kingston and how she became the way she did.
The story takes place over seven days, where the events of February 12th are repeated in some fashion or another. You might think this is boring and that it would become tedious, but Oliver changed up the events every day. The events that led to the accident occurred in different ways, as Sam tried to rectify her mistakes, only to set off a different chain of events that led to the same conclusion.
And throughout these seven days, you can see Sam growing and changing, and her perspective on the world changing as well. It doesn’t happen drastically, but over the period of the seven same days, Sam transforms into a completely different person as she recognizes how her actions have hurt, and maybe even traumatised, others.
The characters in this novel are extremely well-balanced. Just like Sam, the Mean Girls of the school have way more to them than meets the eye. As Sam watches the same, but sometimes different, events unfold seven days in a row, she comes to learn things about her friends that she never knew. Their friendship, while flawed, is a true testament to friendship as the girls stick together regardless of what happens.
The romance is a bit underplayed in the novel, but it does come together quite nicely by the end of the story. I wish Sam and Kent were shown together more often, but I still enjoyed reading about Sam’s blossoming love for Kent, the nerd, whom she has treated with disdain her whole life.
Each and every day ends with the suicide of fellow classmate Juliet Sykes, who is a constant target of bullying from Sam and her friends. Each and every day, Sam tries to prevent Juliet from dying, figuring that if she can save Juliet, then she can save herself. But regardless of what Sam does, Juliet commits suicide each and every day, as a result of the bullying and taunting she has received for years.
But its only when she is able to put Juliet first, rather than herself, is she able to save the young girl and herself. And this is where the story grabbed a hold of my heart.
This book is written by Lauren Oliver, whose most recent success is Delirium, which I was not a big fan of. Coming into this, I wasn’t expecting much, but I ended up being blown away by the little details Oliver included about Sam’s life, and the breath of fresh air she brought to the character.
So for that: 4.5/5.
The reason this book doesn’t get 5/5 is because of the ending. I won’t say too much, because I don’t want to spoil it.
(Sorry this review is so long! I had a lot to say ^_^).
Thanks for reading.
‘Till next time,