Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Format: Trade paperback
Released: March 4th, 2010
Grade rating: A+
They say that when you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that's not how it happened for me. Sam Kingston is dead. Except she isn't. On a rainy February night, eighteen-year-old Sam is killed in a horrific car crash. But then the impossible happens: she wakes up in her own bed, on the morning of the day that she died. Forced to live over and over the last day of her life the drive to school, skipping class, the fateful party she desperately struggles to alter the outcome, but every morning she wakes up on the day of the crash. This is a story of a girl who dies young, but in the process learns how to live. And who falls in love... a little too late.
I've been trying to write this review for weeks, but have had a hard time putting my thoughts into words. I could just say that Before I Fall is amazing, fantastic, a groundbreaking debut. It's all of these things, yet so much more. You know when you read a book, and you're left speechless at the end, like you're in sensory overload? That was what happened to me when I read Before I Fall. I was a complete mess, left reeling like Sam's end had been my end, like her thoughts and feelings had been my own. It's a powerful feeling, though completely unprecedented.
Before I Fall made me wish I was a writer. It made me wish I could arrange sentences that would mean something to people, and maybe even change how they live their life. Not many books do that for me, but when they do, they cast their spell on me and stay in my head forever. Sam's story did more than that -- it made me realise that life is precious, and that every single choice we make has an effect. We might not see it, but it's there. Our decisions have the ability to alter someone's path, or someone's self perception. We have to think about what we do, how we treat others and what one wrong turn can lead to.
Sam's whole journey is filled with regrets and what ifs. Her story is tragic, yes, but it's also redeeming. How many of us wish we could relive a day, maybe do something differently, or take something back? It's a dream we'll never experience, but for Sam it's her reality, even her nightmare. She has a second chance, and she has to use it to fix the trouble she caused, and the people she hurt along the way. I didn't like Sam at first; I thought she was horrible, stuck-up, and not someone I'd ever want to know. Lauren Oliver warned me of this before I started the book, so I was prepared to hate her. What I wasn't prepared for was how much she'd change, and how much she'd speak to me and my way of life.
I'm a naturally shy, quiet person: I don't take risks, I don't try many new things, and I worry about situations I have no control over. Lauren has shown me that life's too short to worry about what might happen in the future, and that once it's gone, it's gone. I've made a conscious effort to live a little, and not focus on the negatives of everything. For that I owe her a huge thanks, because it's something I've struggled with for a long time. On a personal level, this book is everything I've needed, and I hope sharing my thoughts can make someone like me open their eyes to new experiences.
To put it simply, just buy this book. Meet Sam, cry with Sam, and live with Sam. Then go out and do something new. Even if you only say hi to someone outside your circle, or drive a different way to work, it's a step in the right direction.