‘Before I Fall’ is the debut novel from Lauren Oliver, published in the UK in July 2010. It centres around Sam Kingston, a senior at high school in Connecticut, who thinks that she has it all. Her and her three close friends are the most popular girls in school, they’ve already been accepted into good colleges and they spend their final year drinking, partying and having fun, with their inevitably cute boyfriends. But then, one rainy dark Friday night, Sam is in a car accident on the way home from a party, and her life ends. Or does it? When she wakes up the next morning, it is the same Friday and she must live it all over again.
The novel charts Sam’s attempts to live her final day properly, changing things that needed to be changed, making amends and decisions which she never would have done before she was given a second chance. Oliver’s writing is poetic and moving, and although I didn’t necessarily warm to Sam at first, her character is slowly developed over the course of the book so that by the end, I was really willing her on. The supporting characters were largely well-realised too, with this being especially true of those who don’t have as much ‘screen-time’ - Sam’s relationship with her little sister is touching, as is her connection with Kent.
It may be obvious by now that I loved this book. It drew me in from the very beginning and I read it all whilst waiting for a flight home from Barcelona. This did, rather embarrassingly, lead me to crying on the plane and, even now, I cannot say whether they were tears of happiness, sadness or satisfaction at the ending. It isn’t necessarily the ending that one expects from a novel which seems to be targeted at the Young Adult market, and it’s a courageous ending for Oliver to have chosen.
Whilst the novel does have its faults – one of the re-lived days’ events seem forced and out of character, some of the relationships are rushed and would have benefitted from some extra explanation, and the cover does make it seem like a typical Y.A./ ‘chick lit.’ novel, which I don’t think is true – it is one of the best books I’ve read for a while and it’s stayed with me for a long time. It isn’t the most intellectual or literary novel, but its moving, well-written and thought-provoking. The film rights have been bought by Fox 2010 and I’m excited to see how this translated onto the big screen.