Lauren Oliver’s first book, Before I Fall, should be required reading in high school. It’s a great book exploring a popular girl’s life and death. But, Oliver’s story is more than just a diary following Samantha Kingston’s day. In my opinion, it’s a look at purgatory and how a person can get out.
“Sam” was the stereotypical popular mean girl. She hung out with friends who were equally mean. They did what they wanted and never paid the price for their exploits. That is, until the day Sam died.
Oliver’s descriptions are excellent in this tale. I could easily visualize every event in Before I Fall. Even the characters stood out for me. Sam and her group would easily be identifiable in any high school, small or large. They were the cute, well-dressed girls who clung together like grapes on a vine. Interactions with the group came only to those who were privileged to do so. But, as Oliver so deftly points out, pay back can be a bear. And, it can happen to you even after you die.
No living person knows what the afterlife looks like, but, Oliver gives us a glimpse. Imagine spending eternity re-living the day you die. If you’re in hell, you have no means of changing it. It just keeps repeating. But, if you’re in purgatory, you may have a chance to end the cycle. Your good acts can get you to Heaven provided you realize what you need to do. And, that’s the premise of Oliver’s book.
I particularly liked the characters in this story. Sam is somebody that you’re not sure whether you should like or hate. At times, you definitely don’t like her. By the end of the book, however, you’re pulling for her. You want her to have one more day. The other characters are equally strong especially Kent and Lindsay. By the end of the book, you hope they learned a lesson. But, I somehow doubt it.
I was surprised that I didn’t get tired of re-living each day with Sam. Oliver didn’t just recap the previous day. Instead more details are given each time. You keep reading because you’re hoping for a different outcome too. And, just like Sam, you’re disappointed to find you’re still on the same day. So, you plow ahead to the next day….
I became a fan of Lauren Oliver after reading her Delirium series. I wish I had discovered her sooner. This book was an excellent read that should be read by all–not just young adults!