Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

I was able to read this book over the weekend – a random choice. I haven’t heard about the book before not even did I try to read what the plot is. Anyway, I chanced upon Before I Fall, the debut novel of Lauren Oliver. It was a quick and easy read.

The prologue opened with a line that goes: “They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.” Then and there I was automatically hooked. The story was told by the main character, Sam Kingston. Everything started with her death.

Her demise flashed right before her eyes and she had to re-live her last day over and over for a week. You know how the Butterfly Effect goes? A principle in chaos theory states that minute differences may, over time lead to an unforeseen consequence. So this is what Sam had to live with (or die with).

Sam and her friends are the typical High School Mean Girls. Yes, they thrive in their popularity, oftentimes at the expense of putting others down. At times, the turn of events reminded me of the movie, Jawbreaker, and how the ‘it’ girls just rule the stage setting all the ‘uncool’ ones on the side.

I guess it painted a vivid picture of how high school was. Some peaked in high school, while some felt it was the worst period of their lives. For those who flourished, well then and good. But there are some who are pushed to the edge and fall.

This brings us to the pivotal character in the story. Juliet Sykes.

Her presence turns the story over and over.

At this point I can’t help but remember a parallel episode in One Tree Hill: With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept. This was the most heart wrenching episode for me. The Jimmy Edwards shooting spree. Jimmy Edwards’ suicide. Some give in to the pressures of high school.

In that episode, a character had something to say which moved me:

Mouth: It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The artists, and the scientists, and the poets…none of them fit in at seventeen. You’re supposed to get past it. Adults, they see kids killing kids and they know its a tragedy because they used to be those kids. The bullies and the beaten and the loners. You’re supposed to get past it. You’re supposed to live long enough to take it back. Just take it all back.

Now going back, the book is really engaging. At times I swore I hated Sam, her friends, their petty lives. However, of all the things the book touched on, friends, family, school, sex and the ‘misunderstood teen,’ I guess the most essential part of this book is how bullying affects people. At one way or another, it scars them and these are things that we can never take back. 

For a first novel, the writing is really good!

Some quotes I like from the book:

“It amazes me how easy it is for things to change, how easy it is to start off down the same road you always take and wind up somewhere new. Just one false step, one pause, one detour, and you end up with new friends or a bad reputation or a boyfriend or a breakup. It’s never occurred to me before; I’ve never been able to see it. And it makes me feel, weirdly, like maybe all of these different possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other moments layered underneath it that look different.”

“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.” 

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