Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Before I Fall
By Reviewer Leeann Cronk
Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Primary Audience/age group: 16+
# Of pages: 470
Publisher: Harper Collins
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? No
Rating: 1 for language, drug and alcohol use, violence, and sexual situations (View Scale)
Description: 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 at 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. Then 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.
Review: Samantha was able to relive the last day of her life seven times. In the beginning of the novel she started out as a shallow, selfish, stuck-up, snob who is preparing to lose her virginity to her boyfriend that night because she is tired of being afraid of sex and wants to get it over with. Instead, she winds up dying in a car accident, but wakes up the next day only to realize that it is really yesterday again (in much the same way that Bill Murray’s character relieved the same day in the movie Groundhog Day). Samantha soon realizes that no matter what she says or does, “today” will be erased when she wakes up the next morning. This leads to her making some very poor decisions and for a while she actually manages (somehow) to turn into an even more dislikable person than the one she started out as. Each day, however, Samantha learns more and more about those around her and it is as if parts of a puzzle are slowly come together day after day. As she learns more and more each day about her friends, acquaintances and herself, she matures, makes decisions that are finally honorable, anddevelops depth of character. Once Samantha learns what is making certain people behave the way they do, she is able to love them and appreciate them in a way she could not before.
Rating: 1 for bad language, sexual situations, violence, smoking, frequent drug and alcohol use.
Positive: The main character, Samantha, eventually matures and by the end of the book has acquired many of the values that she was missing in the beginning. She appreciates her family and chooses to spend some quality time with them on her final day. She loves her friends for who they are – even though they clearly have faults. She realizes that her feelings for her boyfriend were baseless and allows herself to fall in love with a boy with whom she normally would not have associated. She becomes kind and begins thinking of others instead of herself. The final person that Samantha becomes is a person worth knowing.
Spiritual Elements: Very little in the way of spiritual elements are mentioned, which is somewhat is surprising since you would imagine that a teenage girl who keeps dying would at least wonder about her soul and what happens to it when her body dies. Her best friend once confessed that “sometimes when she’s upset about something she recites this Catholic bedtime prayer she memorized when she was little, even though she’s half Jewish and doesn’t even believe in God anyway.” Samantha and her friends also play with a Ouija board, but they seem to be just goofing around with it, not actually trying to read their futures.
Violence: The main character dies multiple times, most often by being in a car accident or being hit by a car. Another character commits suicide with a gun. Her teacher kisses and gropes her and when she tries to push him off of her, she can’t because he’s too strong.
Language: Full of bad language – if you can imagine it, it’s probably said, so I won’t bother listing everything. The Lord’s name is taken in vain multiple times.
Sexual Content: Lots of sexual content and references. Most disturbing is Samantha’s flirtations with a teacher that eventually result in a kissing/groping scene.
Other: Samantha smokes pot, drinks and propositions her teacher.
Recommendation: This was actually a well-written, engaging book and I seriously considered recommending it with STRONG reservations because I enjoyed reading it very much – I found that I couldn’t wait to see what happened next as bits and pieces of the stories of Samantha’s classmates were revealed. However, while Samantha does become a better person and matures a great deal, she never draws closer to God (or even thinks about Him for that matter). While this is not a requirement I make before I will recommend a book, the tremendous amount of sex, drinking and terrible language involved, ultimately made me decide that Samantha’s becoming a “better person” wasn’t a compelling enough reason to make me recommend the book to teen readers.