Thursday, June 24, 2010
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.
Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
I’m torn. I absolutely loved parts of this story, and really did not like other parts. So, overall, I’m pretty lukewarm about it. And kind of confused, so there is much I want to explore here.
When I first started reading, I really didn’t like Sam. At all. She is everything I am not, and that I vehemently disagree with. I set this book down three times, reading other books instead. But I kept picking it back up because this is the kind of story that requires a lot of character growth, and the promise of that kept me reading. Still, I had a very hard time with the beginning, and I’m still torn about that.
On the one hand, I can see that Sam’s character needs to be established so that we can see, and truly appreciate, her growth later on. So, I agree that we need to see her so unlikable, otherwise we can’t fully appreciate her growth. I truly believe the beginning needed to be this way...and yet, I still didn’t like it. This is unusual for me. The needs of the story can usually persuade me into overlooking things I might not like, and that just didn’t happen in this case. I think that if she had grown just a little bit quicker, then I might have liked it better...it was difficult to dislike her for so many chapters, and I found myself mumbling ‘come on, grow up already.’
The middle is the best part of the whole book. Sam’s growth is very natural to the story, and very well done. I loved seeing her open her eyes to the world around her, and acknowledging how her actions have reactions. Sometimes severe reactions. When she realizes this, she grows leaps and bounds. I started rooting for her to figure out how to end her predicament, and was glued to the pages.
But then we got to the end, which I completely disagree with. Granted, the last couple paragraphs are powerful and leave you with a contented feeling of finality, but the events leading up to them didn’t fit with the rest of the story.
As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.
Throughout Sam’s growth, she works very hard to help others, one of them being Juliet Sykes. And Sam is relentless in trying to get Juliet to understand that she can’t give up because her actions will have reactions that can severely affect others. This is one of my favorite parts of the story, and I eagerly anticipated the ending because I wanted to see how Sam would succeed (and I was convinced she would succeed). But then everything fell apart, because Sam was the one who gave up. Everything she says and does on her last day screams that she’s given up. In doing so, she disregards everything she’s learned about actions and reactions.
Again, this is a part of the book where I’m torn, because I do believe the story needed to go in this general direction, and the ending was right for the story--except for the part where Sam gives up. She accepts her fate way too easily and lets herself slide away with no thought to those who love her (one of the arguments she uses on Juliet). If she had fought and struggled and regretted at least a little bit, then the ending would have been far more powerful, even if the end result had been the same.
I don’t think I’ve ever been so torn over a book, and can’t even decide whether or not to recommend it. Some parts are amazing, and other parts really turned me off. It’s not a book I’d want to read again for enjoyment, but it is a book I’d like to think about more with respect to learning the craft of writing.
Labels: Books I've Learned From