Reviews for Before I Fall

Booklist Reviews 2009 October #2
If you could relive your last day, what would you do differently? This is what Samantha asks herself when, after a fatal accident driving from a party on Friday, she wakes in her bed to find she must repeat the entire day again. And again. As Samantha lives through multiple Fridays, desperate to prevent her death, she is struck by how even the most insignificant acts, like running late for school instead of being on time, can change everything. Suddenly she is noticing uncomfortable things--about her friends, about herself--she has never noticed before. It's the ultimate learning experience, and it takes Samantha seven times--not to save her own life but to leave with one she can be proud of. Oliver, in a pitch-perfect teen voice, explores the power we have to affect the people around us in this intensely believable first novel. Samantha grows from an entitled, popular, yet insecure girl to one with the compassion and guts to make the right decisions. This is a compelling book with a powerful message that will strike a chord with many teens. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2010 March
Getting it right, finally

There’s something you should know: You probably won’t like Samantha Kingston very much, at least not the first time you meet her. But by the time you’ve met her for the third, or fourth, or seventh time, you might start thinking about Samantha a little bit differently. Because she sure starts to see herself that way.

If you’ve seen the movie Groundhog Day, you’ll be familiar with the basic structure of Lauren Oliver’s debut novel, Before I Fall. Samantha relives the same day seven times. She is the only one who’s aware that her life is stuck on repeat—everyone else just keeps living life, moving forward, unaware that for Samantha at least, there’s no such thing as tomorrow. Before I Fall takes a darker, more serious tone than the Bill Murray comedy, however—because what prompts Samantha’s string of “do-overs” is her own death in a car accident.

For so long, Samantha was one of the queen bees, someone who, by her own admission, “just followed along” in the wake of her beautiful, charismatic and sometimes mean friends. But what might happen if she makes different choices—if she takes another look at the boy she’s written off, or reaches out to the outcast, or challenges her best friends’ cruelty? And what will flash before her eyes in the moments before she dies? Samantha hopes it will be the best moments of her life—but what if, instead, her final hours are replayed ad infinitum, giving her the chance to make the right choices, to make amends, even to save someone else’s life, if not her own?

It’s remarkable that Oliver can plot the same day seven times and make each retelling engaging. But Before I Fall is not just a fascinating piece of storytelling; it’s also a thought-provoking commentary on the unintended, and sometimes profound, consequences of even the smallest actions or remarks, and a powerful testimony to people’s ability to make real, meaningful changes in their own behavior and outlook—changes that can deeply affect others’ lives as well.

Norah Piehl is a freelance writer and editor in the Boston area.

Copyright 2010 BookPage Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Fall
Sam relives the last day of her life seven times, hoping to make amends with the family she's neglected and the schoolmates she and her friends have tormented. With each additional final day, Sam makes new mistakes and discoveries that bring her closer to redemption. This promising debut imbues small memories--a word, a joke, a kiss--with transformative power. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 February #2
When your novel's heroine opens the story as a popular, mean highschooler, the story will be one of two things: a paean to Dolce & Gabbana or a tale of redemption. Sam's story is of the latter kind: a Groundhog Day-style repeated day she must relive until she gets it right. With each repeat, she changes something in her relationships--to her family, to the cruelty of her queen-bee friends, to her lecherous boyfriend, to the hot math teacher and to the countless nerds, dorks and freaks she's always abused or ignored. If she can just get it right, Sam thinks, she'll be freed from her loop and can move on with her life. Within this predictable framework Oliver builds a quietly lyrical story of selfhood and friendship, avoiding the obvious paths out of the time loop. Bill Murray's Groundhog Day character used his repeated day to learn French; Sam, more valuably, learns that life's composed of "little gaps and jumps and stutters that can never be reproduced." Unexpectedly rich. (Fantasy. 12-15) Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection Reviews 2010 January/February
This book is a cross between Groundhog Day and Mean Girls but much better than both. High school senior Samantha Kingston dies in a car accident one February night after a wild party. However, she wakes up the next morning, reliving her last day on earth for the next seven days. She and her best friends felt like they ruled the school, and as Sam relives her last day over and over, she begins to realize that she?s not a very nice person. She begins to transform herself before Death claims her. Each time she reawakens, she does different things to try to remedy the wrongs she?s done, and each time she gets different results, including preventing her own death on three of the nights. She begins to understand that she can?t fix everything, but she can fix herself, and the results allow her to be at peace with the eventual outcome. Teens will be able to relate to Sam and her friends?obsessed with being popular, and verbally destroying everyone who gets in their way. The girls in your library will be lined up waiting for this one. Highly Recommended. Harolyn Legg, Educational Reviewer, Findlay, Ohio ¬ 2010 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 January #4

Beautiful, popular Samantha and her three best friends are the ruthless queen bees of their high school. But Samantha is living a nightmare: throughout the book, she relives the day of her death seven times, with some dramatic alterations and revelations depending on her choices--ditching school to spend time with her younger sister or, on a day when life's rules have all but lost their meaning, seducing a teacher. She faces the often tragic consequences of even the smallest acts, awakens to the casual cruelties all around her, and tries to get things right and maybe even redeem herself. If this sounds too much like a Groundhog Day-style plot, make no mistake: evocative of Jenny Downham's Before I Die, Oliver's debut novel is raw, emotional, and, at times, beautiful ("It amazes me how easy it is for things to change," Samantha thinks. "how easy it is to start off down the same road you always take and wind up somewhere new"). Samantha's best friends are funny, likable, and maddening, but readers will love Samantha best as she hurtles toward an end as brave as it is heartbreaking. Ages 14-up. (Mar.)

[Page 121]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2010 April

Gr 9 Up--Samantha Kingston has worked her way up the popularity ladder; now a senior, she and her three best friends rule their school. On Cupid Day, Sam expects to receive Valentine roses, to party with her friends, and to finally (maybe) have sex with her equally popular boyfriend. The last thing she expects is that she will die, but in the final moments of her life, as she hears "a horrible, screeching sound--metal on metal, glass shattering, a car folding in two," everything turns to nothing. Only, it is not the end for Sam. She wakes up to start the same day over again, and again; in fact, she relives it seven times. At first, being dead has its advantages, as she realizes that nothing worse can happen to her. She first conducts herself with reckless abandon, seducing her math teacher and smoking marijuana. It is difficult to feel pity for Sam; she is snobbish, obnoxious, a cheater, and just plain mean. However, her gradual and complete transformation is so convincing that when she finally puts others before herself in order to save another life, it is moving and cathartic. The deepening relationship between Sam and Kent, her childhood friend, is sensitively described and the most complex and compelling relationship in the story. Although somewhat predictable, the plot drives forward and teens will want to see where Sam's choices lead. Fans of Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere (Farrar, 2005) will enjoy this almost-afterlife imagining.--Amy J. Chow, The Brearley School, New York City

[Page 164]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2010 April
Samantha is dead, killed in a car accident after a Valentine's Day party. As her life ends, events from her childhood play out in front of her. She is dismayed to watch her own casual cruelty to others flash in front of her. Her life was definitely not supposed to end this way; however, the next morning Sam is back in her bed with the alarm ringing. Was the accident all a nightmare? Sam struggles to understand exactly what has happened. She has been given the chance to live that last day of her life over and over again. Gradually she comes to understand that it is the small things, the seemingly unimportant decisions she makes, that have the gravest consequences. It would be easy to label this story a young adult version of Groundhog Day. Oliver's creation of multidimensional characters, especially Samantha, and her skilled examination of how even inconsequential things affect the lives of those around Sam transform this book from predictable and perhaps even formulaic into an evocative look at life and death. Samantha's attempts to save her life and right the wrongs she has caused are precisely what will draw readers into this complex story and keep them turning pages until Sam succeeds in living her last day the right way.--Teri S. Lesesne 5Q 4P S Copyright 2010 Voya Reviews.