Are you a person, like me, who supremely enjoyed Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why? Have you been looking for a book which captures the same feeling of loss, redemption, understanding, and attempts to explain the complicated web of actions and relationships which exist? Well. I’ve found it. The worthy successor of Thirteen Reasons Why is Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. Like Thirteen Reasons Why, Before I Fall is a book written in retrospective of a life, in this case, narrated by a girl who is probably, maybe, possibly, should be dead.
Samantha Kingston is one of those shiny golden girls who seems to have it all. She wears designer jeans, has a crushworthy boyfriend, a tight-knit group of best friends, and is among the most popular girls at her high school. It’s Friday, February 12th, which promises to be just another charmed day in the life of Sam Kingston, however, it turns out to be her last. In a second of icy roads, bright light and crushed metal she’s dead. Until she wakes up the next morning to her alarm clock and begins the same day all over again. Reliving that day over seven times allows Sam a chance to understand how her actions affect those around her; and she’s not happy about what she finds. Vicious rumors, cruel pranks, a distant boyfriend, an inability to be herself, a distancing from her caring family. Sam is given a miraculous chance to come back and untangle the messy web she’s woven for herself, and discover the true value in life which she has lost as she grew older. Kind of like A Christmas Carol, only Sam can actively participate in her life and make new choices.
It does sound depressing I know. And I’ll admit that I was rooting for Sam and hoping, hoping, hoping that somehow by making the right choices, doing the thing, and saving those around her (because this book is as much about Sam’s friends and classmates as it is about her), she would be able to change her own fate. I am not going to spoil you, but I will say that I felt the ending was, in its own way, optimistic.
Sam’s old best friend/someone she never talks to now, Kent was very crushable and written in a mold that I find absolutely irresistable: quirky, shining knight in armor who has always been in love with Sam from afar since 2nd grade. I also appreciated that Oliver didn’t write Sam’s popular friends as one-dimensional shallow faceless characters. These girls were real friends, who cared about each other deeply and truly wanted the best for each other. Even Lindsey (who is, as much as anyone is, the villain of the story,) is an empathetic character and you understand what motivates her to act the way she does. In fact, Before I Fall is a really compassionate novel which explores what it means to grow up, and how hard it can be to find your true self in high school when it is so much about fitting in, “being cool”, and popular is the be all end all (even if it means giving up childhood friends and loves like horseback riding and hanging out with your family.) I urge anyone to check out this book, especially if you were fans of Thirteen Reasons Why, I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.