I know I've said this before, but it bears repeating: When I see a whole lot of blogosphere chatter about a book, I have a tendency to distrust it¹. Partly because I get a lot of publicity pitches in my inbox, partly because really, how often does something Apparently Universally Beloved actually live up to its hype? (Hello, Beautiful Creatures and American Beauty².)
But, you know. Sometimes things do live up to the hype. (Hello, Hunger Games.)
Anyway, there was a whole lot of chatter about Before I Fall when it came out earlier this year. So, you know. I waited, like, eight months before reading it. And, here I am, eating crow (gross!), because Before I Fall deserved the chatter.
Senior Samantha Kingston is one of the four most popular girls at Thomas Jefferson High School. She's dating a guy that everyone else wants, and younger girls are torn between being terrified of her and wanting to be her. Friday, February 12th -- Cupid Day -- should be just another day in her perfect existence.
Instead, it's the day she dies.
But then, she wakes up the next morning. Except it isn't the next morning. It's the same day. And she's about to relive her last day on Earth again and again and again... until she gets it right.
Holy cow. This is a good one. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who tends towards the contemporary YA -- and to fans of Siobhan Vivian, especially, as she doesn't veer away from protagonists who aren't immediately likable -- while the framework of the story puts it firmly in the fantasy genre, it's a book that reads more like a high school drama/coming-of-age story, so those of you who don't usually like fantasy shouldn't avoid it. Just the opposite. (<---That means you should read it.)
Within two pages, I wanted Sam to start Learning Some Lessons:
It's not like Vicky was traumatized or anything. That's just the kind of thing that kids do to each other. It's no big deal. There's always going to be a person laughing and someone getting laughed at. It happens every day, in every school, in every town in America--probably in the world, for all I know. The whole point of growing up is learning to stay on the laughing side.
But, as her story went on -- and started over, and went on, and started over again -- I realized that there was much more to Sam than I'd previously thought, just as she was realizing that there was much more to growing up than she'd previously thought. Lauren Oliver deserves huge praise for showing these characters -- the secondary ones included -- in a clear light, without ever resorting to the easy mean/nice good/bad bully/victim dichotomies.
Before I Fall -- and Sam herself -- surprised me again and again and again. I loved it from moment one, and eventually, I loved her, too.
¹The chatter, I mean. I can't help it! I have a stubborn and suspicious nature! It isn't just in the blogosphere: The harder something is pushed at me, the more I tend to resist reading/watching/otherverbing it. Of course, when I love a book, I want to boss everyone around me into reading. Yes, I do see the irony.
²The movie. Not the album, which DOES live up to the hype.