Before I Fall
Initial Impressions: Considering everyone loved this one, I didn't connect with it nearly as well.
I would call it Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day.
It wasn't bad - Just really not nearly as good as I was hoping.
Review originally posted on The Book Addict's Guide: My first impression of BEFORE I FALL is Groundhog’s Day meets Mean Girls but with a darker twist: Samantha Kingston is one of the popular girls… Until she dies on the night of February 12th and must relive the day over and over until she rights the wrongs of her life. I loved the beauty of Lauren Oliver’s writing in the DELIRIUM trilogy so I figured it was about time I got to her stand alone, BEFORE I FALL.
This is a tough book for me to review. I think this is another book that suffered from everyone else being in love with it and combine that with the fact that I expected to love it simply because it’s Lauren Oliver and I ended up with… disappointment. I did still enjoy the book and I love the concept, but as Rachel helped me realize, I don’t like the “mean girl” story lines in books. I know this story is about Samantha and trying to find a way to redeem herself from being that popular mean girl, but even still, it was hard for me to get on board with any of her friends who still were that way, completely oblivious to the fact that they’re hurting others, and the things that they do. So yeah, that was a BIG part of the book for me that was hard to stomach. Since the whole point of BEFORE I FALL is for Sam to right the wrongs of her world, I did end up liking her a whole lot more, but I still couldn’t say the same for her friends. But I mean, seriously. Mean Girls. Except instead of Candy Cane-grams, we have Vale-grams (or however it was spelled (SORRY, listened to the audio so I don’t know haha)).
I loved the Groundhog’s Day concept and how even though we’re reliving the same day over and over and over again, it’s always different, even if it’s the same setting. Sam finds different ways to relive her school day, different ways to change the party, different ways to interact with her friends, but she can only change HER part of it and the other people around her have the tendency to fall into the same routine that they do in every scenario. It was interesting to see what exactly Sam had to learn from each day and what she had to come up with to really make a difference.
The other thing I really liked was that it’s not obvious how the book is going to end. It starts with Sam dying and the day restarting, that we know, but I was never able to guess if she was going to snap out of this cycle of repetition and have a happy Bill Murray ending or if Sam’s destiny really is to die on February 12th regardless of the things she corrects. Up until the very last minute, I STILL didn’t know what was going to happen, so I loved that I was kept on the edge of my seat.
I liked the concept of BEFORE I FALL, but I just didn’t end up loving it as a book. I think there were too many “mean girl” moments that really prevented me for liking a lot of the characters so I found it hard for me to be on their side. It didn’t destroy the book for me but it really did prevent me from falling in love with it.
Yes I wanted to hurl the book since I hated the MC for the first few chapters. Not the type of character I care or want to read about, but I'm glad I stuck with it.
Though I have to admit I was a little saddened with the ending.
** spoiler alert ** I really liked the middle of this book, but was kind of disappointed in the ending. Maybe this was a kind of purgatory to teach Sam the error of her ways by making her relive her last day 7 times, before she was finally able to die the final time and move on to whatever was next. It seemed a bit like a deathbed conversion though, that she had the chance to make things right -- kind of -- before her final death.
I liked the Groundhog Day aspect, and the mention of the many worlds of parallel unive I really liked the middle of this book, but was kind of disappointed in the ending. Maybe this was a kind of purgatory to teach Sam the error of her ways by making her relive her last day 7 times, before she was finally able to die the final time and move on to whatever was next. It seemed a bit like a deathbed conversion though, that she had the chance to make things right -- kind of -- before her final death.
I liked the Groundhog Day aspect, and the mention of the many worlds of parallel universes. There wasn't really any way to solve the problem of Juliet -- their tormenting and bullying toward her was too engrained to repair in just one day, no matter how many times she was granted to try it again. And that's what bothered me -- Sam's solution didn't feel like it would actually be successful. She did invoke Random Chance several times though, so that must be it.
Sam Kingston and her three best friends are popular seniors. Lindsay, Sam, Elody, and Ally are basically untouchable. Put down whomever they please. Go to the best parties. And after one of these parties, crash their car. This is where Sam’s story really begins. And ends. Over and over again. Sam is forced to repeatedly live through her last day and see how her choices change everything.
I’m going to start right off with what I didn’t like about the book: I basically hated all the main characters. Sam and her friends are the epitome of the mean-girls trope. They are pretty and popular, and that’s pretty much all they seem to care about. They are bullies: Lindsay being the particularly vicious one, but they all play along. (This is specific issue for me, if you know my history.) They, admittedly, do seem to care about each other, but they are the kind of best friends who call each other “bitch” and “slut” regularly, which I frankly find disgusting. Typically, not having characters I can care about from the beginning is a deal breaker for me. And I thought I was going to hate this book from the first couple of chapters.
Then, because I rarely give up on a book without finishing it, interesting things started to happen. Sam’s final day started changing more drastically. Twists were revealed. And I found myself hooked. I was still cringing at things that Sam and her friends would say or do, but I wanted to know what happened next enough that I ignored it (mostly). And as I hoped, Sam starts to - very slowly - have a change of heart. This is helped along by the more likeable side characters. Kent, in particular. Kent is the saving grace of characters in this book. He’s a goofy little sweetheart, who has wanted to be Sam’s hero since they were friends as kids. And finally gets his chance.
I can’t quite say I loved this whole book, but I do think it will stick with me. It was a thrilling ride, which turns emotional towards the end. Maybe having slightly unlikable characters is a necessity for telling a story like this. You had to see just how much of a change Sam went through.