●●●●● A Definite Must read!
○○○○ Really good. You should read it!
○○○ It was okay, I finished it. Something was missing.
○○ Read if you’ve already read the cereal box, twice.
○ Time I’ll never get back. Probably didn’t finish it.
Before I Fall
By Lauren Olivier
Olivier does not disappoint with this story about a popular high schooler Samantha, “Sam”,” who discovers that she is living the last day of her life over and over. Normally a premise like this can give me an ache. I liked the movies “50 First Dates” and “Groundhog Day” but by the end of them I was tired of the repetitive starts to each day. I know it’s necessary for the plot, but for me it’s a bit of a mental drag. Olivier’s book visits the same day seven times—was just enough.
Faced with her last day, Samantha begins to think about who she is and how she has behaved as one of the popular girls. She comes to a grim conclusion: she is a bitch. She wasn’t always judgmental, superficial, and consumed with what people thought about her. She was “turned” around the age of 12, when the most popular girl in school allowed her into the inner sanctum of popularity. Sam was so thankful to be included, she jumped on the fast track to the “in” crowd and didn’t look back until she was faced with death.
What she didn’t—and couldn’t—realize at that age is that popularity brings power, and power changes people; power can make a person think they are more important than the weaker ones; power is something that must be constantly maintained. The rules of high school popularity are: you must always maintain a perfect appearance; you must mock those who are below you (you have to continually show your dominance); you must never dabble in self reflection, and if you accidentally bring up a deep subject with your friends, laugh it off and act like you were kidding before they begin questioning your membership in the group.
The girls show some vulnerabilities along the way, but their concern about being judged or losing status keeps them from sharing their insecurities with each other. It’s a shame because these missed exchanges were their opportunities for growth.
Olivier made these girls annoying and in the beginning I found myself rooting for them anyway, hoping that there would some kind of transformation; however, late in the book we are shown some of their truly awful deeds from the past and it left me wondering if there could by any kind of redemption for the things they had done. The writing was excellent and the progressive introspection Sam experiences is believable. I was really curious to see how it was going to play out and I admit to alternately hoping for—and then fearing—a “Hollywood” ending.
(Speaking of Hollywood ending, the book is to become a movie: the director from “The Secret Life of Bees,” Gina Prince-Bythewood has taken the project.)
I highly recommended this book for those of you who have enjoyed John Green’s writing, “If I Stay” by G. Forman, “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher.