All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver

on September 24, 2010

I’m back! Back home in the southern state after a week away attending my brother’s wedding. My parents live on the north coast and for the week we were there we had 2 truly beautiful days, 1 being the day of the wedding thankfully and the other being the last day we were there (of course!). Now it’s back to grey skies, the threat of rain and temperatures a good 7-8 degrees colder in the day time!

While we were away I managed to only read 1 of the 3 books I took! I know, bad effort on my part but I was sick for 3 of the days we were there (the best man had pneumonia and about 20 guests from the wedding came down with various bugs/viruses in the day or 2 after it, which was a bit of a bummer especially as one of those was me!) and the rest of our time was filled with seeing family and taking our son to the beach. But I did get through this book and I had severe mixed feelings about it.

Firstly, I think the premise is excellent. Groundhog Day – reliving  the day you die over and over again trying to change things, trying not to die, trying to get it right so that everyone ends up okay. Sam Kingston is a popular girl in her high school having worked her way up the ladder from relative obscurity in middle school. Her and her three best friends are the ‘in’ clique at school – the girls that everyone wants to have on their side, the girls that everyone wants to be. It’s Cupid Day and Sam and her friends are dressed in cute matching outfits and expecting to get many roses, fitting of their popularity. That night there is a party and Sam attends, expecting a fun night culminating in perhaps the consummation of her relationship with the very popular Rob. However the night ends in tragedy (and Samantha’s death). However, she wakes up in bed to find that once again it’s Cupid Day. This time she knows she’s going to die. So she tries to alter the course of events – which leads to a death of a different kind for her, or death for someone else. We go through this Cupid Day and all the different scenarios Sam tries to enact in order to save herself many times. Each time she gets it wrong, she dies (or someone else does) and then she wakes up in bed again to find out that it’s Cupid Day.

To be honest, almost none of the characters are likable. Sam and her friends are shallow, bitchy, typical mean girls overly concerned with their popularity, themselves and precious little else. Sam, who didn’t start out as popular and was drawn in by the group’s ringleader Lindsay. They’re the sort of girls I can’t relate to on any level really and I spent a good portion of the book rolling my eyes at their sheer arrogance. I don’t particularly know the intricacies of New England schools but in one scene where Sam says something about how a sophomore shouldn’t even be looking/talking at or to her I couldn’t help but laugh.

Sam starts out the novel as being shallow and self-obsessed but I think by the end we’re supposed to believe that she has grown as a person and matured in the 7 days she has to live over again and again in trying to find a solution. I don’t really know if that’s the case, as the first 6 times it’s all about trying to save her life and although she does feel remorse when changing her actions cause other things to happen, they’re not things she can control or stop happening so really, she’s just along for the ride most of the time. She doesn’t even know she’s got it wrong until she wakes up again on Cupid Day sometimes. And naturally, her actions are all about self-preservation dominantly. Whose wouldn’t be? I don’t know how you would go but if I died and then woke up to start the day over again you bet I would be doing anything I could to change the course of events and try and save my own life. And although Sam does try and right some wrongs she’s done to people in being one of the ‘Mean Girls’ it’s not through any true remorse or regret, in my opinion. She’s simply trying to make sure she doesn’t die.

So far, the book was so good. I was enjoying it despite the ridiculousness of the main characters and I was liking the different scenarios and the different things Sam does to try and avoid her death and some of the severe consequences of those new actions. Then we got to the last day and the final scenario (apparently the ‘right’ one, because it’s the one time she doesn’t wake up to start the day over again and everything ends that way) and I just didn’t get it.

Some **SPOILERS** from here on

I didn’t like the ending at all. I’m not sure what sort of message the author was trying to send here, and it appears that I am alone because this book has many favourable reviews around. But I didn’t approve of the ending, nor did I think it made much sense. In trying to prevent her own death during one of the 7 days, her and her friends receive the news that a classmate has committed suicide. The classmate has been bullied and outcast, particularly by Lindsay and to a lesser degree, Sam and the other girls also. Several of the scenario’s deal with the death of this character and somehow by the end of the book Sam comes to the epiphany that it’s not about saving herself it’s about saving this girl.

Well okay. But why? Because everyone bullied her and made her life experience hell at school? That was all started by Lindsay, so why isn’t Lindsay’s death the right ending? Why is it Samantha’s death, her sacrifice of herself to save this girl, that’s the right ending? It’s not really Sam’s fault that the girl, Juliet is driven to suicide and in one of the scenarios (not the final one) she tries to convince her not to do it, drawing on how she will devastate her family. But in the ending, Sam basically commits suicide herself! She sacrifices herself in order to save Juliet, apparently without a second thought for how it will devastate those left behind her – her parents and sister, her friends, the rather likable Kent (actually the only real likable character in the novel). How can it be so wrong for Juliet to end her life but in the end, Sam ends hers? Argh, I don’t get it! And I suppose you can argue that Sam is going to die anyway, because that’s how the novel starts, with the day ending in her death. But how then, is any death better than the other? How is any scenario any better? Why go through the whole damn thing 7 times? Maybe I’m just too cynical or skeptical to read a novel like this? I was annoyed by Sam’s final death. I felt that everything she learned was in vain, as she just died anyway. And how would her death make life any better for Juliet? Sam barely had anything to do with her. And yet now that she’s gone, Juliet will also bear the guilt of the fact that she was going to commit suicide herself and then someone else did it in order to save her. In someone who is already obviously of fragile mind state, how would this added weight help?

If you read this book and loved it, please tell me why you loved the ending so much. I would really like to understand other opinions and other views and maybe come to terms myself and accept the ending a bit better. I suppose it’s good in a way, that the book got me so fired up, because you don’t have to love a book to discuss it and have it stick in your head. And this book has stuck in my head – a lot. I’ve thought about it a lot in the week or so since I finished it and even though it annoys me, I’m still thinking about it. Still mulling it over, still trying to find a way in my head to change the ending. If there was a scenario that could’ve saved both Sam and Juliet. And that’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?

I’m not rating this book out of 10 for that reason. I didn’t like it as such, but yet I found it very thought provoking. To give it a low number would be unfair as it wouldn’t take into consideration the lasting effect. So I can’t rank it.

(Book #67 of my 75 Book Challenge)


2 responses to “Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver

  1. It’s been a few months since I read this one, so my recollection is hazy. I guess I can see both sides of the story. Sam had to be willing to sacrifice herself and learn that everything wasn’t all about her. Maybe sometimes you have to sacrifice yourself for the good of another person or group. On the other hand, I definitely see your point. How does it make sense that Sam has to die for someone else to live? It’s definitely an ending that is hard to digest.

  2. Kaylee says:

    I agree COMPLETELY. I don’t understand the ending that well either. definently not the best book i’ve ever read. I’d give it like a 6/10.

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