Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Before I fall... by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall
Before I fall is the second book I've read by Lauren Oliver and it was actually her first book. Nine times out of 10 your first book is never your best work, and that definitely applies here. Oliver's writing style remains the same giving the novel many good points and I was definitely engrossed in the story. So I will not say that I absolutely disliked the book. However, compared to Delirium, this novel was lacking.

To quote other reviewers of this book, it's the movie Groundhog Day meets the movie Mean Girls. The plot is simple. The narrator, Samantha (Sam) Kingston, a pretty, popular girl, gets into a car accident with her friends after a party one night. Then, she wake up and relives the same day all over again. She relives this same day several time with different occurrences and realizations each time. Growing bored with reliving this day, she is desperate to do whatever is needed to break this cycle.

My problem with this book is the narrator. Sam is a completely shallow, narcissistic, self-absorbed teenager. She believes that she and her friends rule her school because they're beautiful, popular, and everyone wants to be them...well the majority of them. Oliver attempts to elicit sympathy by constantly stating the fact that Sam was once a nerdy outcast. However, I don't feel that this warrants sympathy. To me, it is all the more reason that she should be a little more compassionate and not be so quick to judge those who are different or "lesser" than her. Her treatment of Kent is a good example. She used to be close friends with him when they were younger, when she was a nerdy outcast. Unfortunately, he's now considered a geek at their school. He's obviously in love with Sam, as she obnoxiously admits,  yet Sam treats him terribly and won't  consider dating him because it would be bad for her image. Meanwhile the guy she's currently dating, who is cute, extremely popular and the object of Sam's affection for many years, treated her the same way in the past. She does experience many pangs of guilt as the story progresses and she does learn and grow as a character, so with time she did grow on me. But I definitely had a hard time rooting for her which, considering that she's the protagonist, didn't sit well with me.

What Oliver does accomplish with this novel is show all the layers of the cruel brutal world of high school social classes, the effects of bullying, and that every action has a consequence. Everyone who has experienced high school, and lived to speak of it, knows that high school is tough. Not because of the academic work; that's unfortunately one of the last things people talk about when they relay their high school experience.  High school is tough because of social classes. The pretty, strong, and popular rule the school and frown and belittle those whom are considered beneath them, namely the nerds, geeks, and all those in between. It is only when they grow up that they realize how unfair and meaningless all such judgments are. In this YA novel, we come to learn that Sam is meant to make these realizations sooner rather than later. As she continues to relive this one particular day, it is soon realized that the only way to end this vicious cycle is for Sam to see the error of her ways,  make some important changes and, hopefully, change the ultimate outcome of the day. At the end of each "day", Sam comes away with some realization those closest to her fail to see. In addition, Sam also learns that things are not always as they appear and that people are not always who we believe them to be. Two questions remain throughout the novel: Are her realizations and new actions be enough to end this cycle? What will ultimately happen to Sam? These questions kept me turning pages.

I still believe Oliver to be a good writer. She incorporates enough action and suspense to keep the reader while at the same time teaching valuable lessons about life. Even though I can't entirely root for her, watching Sam struggle, learn the error of her ways and grow as a character is refreshing. It shows that given the chance anyone can change. The factor that she only has this one day to make a difference adds to the suspense and makes the plot fascinating, even though it has been done before. The cast of characters and their personalities and actions are very realistic and believable. So for a first novel, this book was decent. But it's definitely not one of my favorites. I still enjoyed Delirium more and look forward to the final books in that trilogy.

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Nitza!

    The author of Delirium, I knew the name Lauren Oliver was familiar! Delirium has been on my TBR shelf for awhile now.

    It sucks that this wasn't as good for you. I've experienced that, where I'll read other stuff from an author who wrote one of my favorites and be disappointed. (Point in case; Cate Tiernan. Sweep is wonderful, but Balefire and Immortal Beloved...kinda suck.)

    Just by your third paragraph alone, I can tell this isn't the type of book for me. I hate snobby popular heroines, especially when they've been on the other side and know what it's like to be treated the exact way they're now treating others. So they feel pangs of guilt, so what? Doesn't change the fact that they're a jerk.

    At least you found some things to enjoy in this book, though, and you still have Delirium to turn to when you want something more enjoyable from this author.