Thursday, January 20, 2011

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I Fall

by Lauren Oliver
published 2010
completed December 2010

I've seen this book everywhere, and I'm sure you have as well.  Forgive me for adding another review to the already massive amount all over the book blogging community.  I had to run out and grab it once I saw Jenners review.  I think I put it on hold at my library that day.  I'm so glad that I did.  I really loved this book.  It wasn't perfect, but more than anything, I appreciated how introspective Before I Fall made me feel.  It's a YA book, but one people of all ages can find thought-provoking.

Sam dies in a car crash and wakes up only to realize that she is reliving the same day.  She continues to relive that day in a struggle to figure out what she must make right.  She's one of the most popular girls in school, has one of the hottest guys as her boyfriend, and treats everyone outside of her circle like trash.  By cycling through the same day over and again, she changes inside and starts to realize what is actually important in life.

During my reading, I had some uncomfortable feelings.  I think this book is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable, leading to self-reflection.  I think all of us have had a little Sam in us at some point in our lives.  Sometimes we're a little self-absorbed and miss what's going on around us.  Sometimes we offend someone and have no idea.  Sometimes our actions have consequences to others that we don't always see.  We may not be the ones bullying, but is it any better if we stand by and do nothing?

Last week my six year old mentioned that he wasn't friends with a boy in his class anymore.  This boy was the first friend he made when school started, so I was a bit surprised.  I asked him if they just played different things during recess so didn't see each other as much.  His response, "He is right.  I am rubbish at football."  As he said this, his little blue eyes were glistening and his voice was shaky.  I felt like I got the wind knocked out of me.  Nothing prepares you as a mother for dealing with the pain of a child.

The mama bear instinct came out, and I wanted to protect my little cub.  The sad thing is--I can't.  I wish I could shelter my kids from this kind of pain, but it's out there all around them.  I had a discussion with my kids about what it means to be a friend.  We also talked about how we don't have to allow people to treat us poorly, but that even if they do, we still treat them with respect.  I'm not saying that I'm a perfect parent.  I'm not.  Far from it.  Before I Fall reminded me of what I can do as a parent.  It's my responsibility to do what I can to help my children not contribute to the problem of bullying, and to teach them to have the strength within themselves to not be torn down by how others treat them.

I wish all of this high school-ish behavior ended upon graduation, but it often continues into adulthood.  Gossiping is so destructive, but it seems to be a common past-time for women.  Cliques didn't end in high school either.  I see them amongst the mothers at school, at church, and in my neighborhood.  Why do we do this to each other?

Sam finally figured out that what really matters are relationships.  Not relationships that make us look good or seem popular, but real relationships with people we care about.  People who love us because of who we are and not because of we are pretty, have a huge house, or have a great job.  Sam also learned that family matters.  When all is said and done, they are usually the ones that are always there for us.  I finally figured this out when I moved away for college, and I wish I hadn't waited so long to realize it.

I love that Before I Fall made me think about what I value most.  It reminded me to seize the day--mend relationships that have weakened, let go of those grudges, and to spend more time with the ones that I love.  Who knows how much time we have?  I certainly don't, but I try to live so that I won't have any regrets.  Before I Fall  was Lauren Oliver's debut novel.  I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.


  1. I too liked most about it that it made you think so much about your own life. It really made an impact on me!

  2. rhapsodyinbooks--I agree. It made quite an impact on me which was surprising. I have you to thank for convincing Jenners to read it. If I hadn't seen it on her blog, I wouldn't have picked it up. I'm really glad I did.

  3. I'm so glad you found as much in it as I did. It really does force you to think and reflect about difficult and uncomfortable issues. Like you, I saw much of it from a mother's point of view. I'm sure it must have been horribly painful to hear that from your son. I know my own son had a difficult time with a former friend earlier this year, and I was filled with anger at this little girl who hurt him ... even though she is a little kid herself. It is difficult road to walk, and I do think this book highlights so many of the issues we all face -- and continue to face -- in life.

    Wonderful review. I'm looking forward to her next book too. I think it is coming out fairly soon.

  4. Jenners-A big thanks to you! If I hadn't seen it on your blog, I wouldn't have read it. I'm sorry to hear about a similar thing happening to your son. Kids can be so cruel. I too loved how applicable it is to everyone--not just the teenage audience.

    I'm excited for her new book. I've read a few things about it, and it's supposed to be a dystopian series. Quite different than this book. We'll have to see.

  5. I really didn't expect to like this one as much as I did. I'm glad you liked it too!

  6. I just read Delirium, Oliver's new one, and I'm really looking forward to reading Before I Fall next. Oliver seems to be a really good writer, and it sounds from your review like Before I Fall is really a book worth reading.

  7. Amanda--I'm so glad you liked it as well. I wasn't sure how I'd react because I don't read much YA.

    Erin--Lucky! I thought Delirium wasn't out until February. I'm glad to hear you liked it. I enjoy Oliver's writing so I think I'll pick it up when it comes out.

  8. I so enjoyed this book! I love reading reviews about it.

  9. Sheila--I'm glad you also enjoyed it. It was a fantastic book. I'm looking forward to Delirium.