Sunday, March 14, 2010

book review - before i fall by lauren oliver

my two cent(ence)s - good paced novel with an interesting storyline. i recommend it, although i must note it didn't really draw me in until about page 80.

i read this book because agent janet reid had such positive things to say about it. i was really interested in seeing what a reputable and successful agent deemed "a good read".

i have to say it was a very easy read and the premise is pretty interesting - kind of like the movie groundhog day, but with a dead teenager.
sam is part of her school's most popular foursome. she and her friends are the envy of all the other students and they live each day using this knowledge to their advantage. during a party, sam and her friends are confronted by a girl, julia, who they torment on a daily basis. sam and her friends end up humiliating julia in front of everyone at the party. on the drive home, they have a car accident and sam dies, but she wakes to find her day has started all over again and she tries to do things differently so she doesn't lose her life. but even on the night she doesn't go to the party, the next morning she is back at the beginning of the same day. sam realizes she will be stuck in this loop until she fixes something, and soon realizes that it's julia she needs to save in order to find peace.

this book didn't really hook me right off the bat like the last couple i've read, though once the premise is evident it is hard to put the book down. i really did want to know what the main character, sam, would do differently each morning her day started over again and i really enjoyed how sam developed from day to day, and how she reacted to her normal surroundings (friends, family, school) after knowing she was destined to die.
sam is a well written character, but i found her friends to be on the more generic side. i really enjoyed sam's slow dawning realization she's attracted to her elementary school buddy, and it is almost heartbreaking when she knows she has to leave him forever.

my two issues with the novel are these:
1. it doesn't really make sense to me why sam has to be the one to sacrifice herself so that julia won't commit suicide. although sam and her friends torment julia, it is revealed that sam's best friend is the reason julia is a social pariah. if anyone would have to sacrifice themselves to put things right, it seems that it would be sam's best friend and not sam. there is also a strange bit of foreshadowing between sam and julia the first time the party is written about, though it doesn't really come to fruition in a way that made perfect sense to me.
2. knowing she was going to sacrifice herself and put an end to the cycle, it seemed very odd to me that sam didn't leave her parents with something nice to remember her by. not a final hug or 'i love you', or even a 'mom, you look nice today'. i have a hard time understanding why she would sacrifice herself for someone she barely knew, yet doesn't seem to give a second thought that she'll never see her parents again.

still, i'd recommend this novel. it's well written and i like the way the author developed some of the sub-plots.


SkippyMom said...

Nice review! So few people know how to write a good, thought out review that tell the salient points in a way that I know whether I want to read the book.

I do have one question - is this YA? And do you think it would be appropriate for a 13 year old if it isn't a YA.

Thanks so much for the review. Hugs!

ikw said...

hi skippymom!
i'm not really adept at writing reviews, i'm really just doing them so i can analyze the writing.
this is YA, but i definitely think it would go under the heading of "edgy YA" since there are sexual situations, cigarette and alcohol use, and adult language.
i would NOT recommend it for a 13 year old, but i do think squirrel might like it. for the younger one i would suggest another novel, stealing heaven, since the language is mild and there is no sex or overt drinking.