Ten years after the publication (and after I originally bought the book) I’ve finally sat down and read Before I Fall. As is so often the case with my reading, I chose to finally get to this book because I wanted to read the book before I watched the recent Netflix adaptation. It was also a bonus that it was after the hype has peaked – I felt less pressure to feel any kind of way about it.
For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is … until she dies in a terrible accident that night.
However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.
I think this is my favorite of all of the Lauren Oliver books I’ve read. It seems like YA contemporary is where she shines – she really nailed the feeling of being a modern high school student and what going to high school is actually like. Even though the references are 10 years out of date, it still felt culturally relevant, which is in and of itself an accomplishment and speaks to the authors ability to relate to teens.
The most common issue with time loop books is that they often get really repetitive (ironically). While Before I Fall was not the worst offender, it certainly felt a bit repetitive by the time Samantha got to her 7th loop of Cupid Day. The book could have streamlined a bit more in terms of not repeating events that hadn’t changed every time Samantha experienced a loop. Apart from this slight repetitiveness, I was thoroughly impressed with the rest of this story. It was a classic tale of a popular girl who realizes the impact she has on others and then becomes a better person. Even though that’s a well-trodden story trope, it was executed phenomenally here – I especially liked that even though Samantha realized her friends weren’t the best of people, she never turned her back on them.
The core of this story is about Samantha learning to be a better person – through her repeats of Cupids Day, she begins to see the impact she has on others and begins to see herself and her friends through new eyes. Best of all, her transformation and growth weren’t instantaneous – it was over every loop that she improved and learned about how a facet of herself hurt others. The loops also forced her to learn that empty actions mean nothing if you’re doing a good deed for your own sake.
Overall, Before I Fall was an interesting take on time travel and popularity. It was far more insightful and introspective than I had expected, and it definitely had one of the best examples of character growth that I’ve read in a while. This book would be great for fans of Sarah Dessen or for folks like me who want to read the book before watching the Netflix movie adaptation. If you enjoyed the time travel aspect of this book, you might also enjoy Recursion by Blake Crouch. If you’re looking for more somber YA – check out They Both Die in the End by Adam Silvera. 4/5