Friday, July 8, 2011

Before I fall by Lauren Oliver

I'm doing my best to catch up some YA reading this summer.  People talk about these books all year long and I tend to save them for summer.  This book was on my to-read mental list and while we were in DC we stopped by my husband's old neighborhood, Adams Morgan.  I went right to the lovely little used bookstore-the name of which escapes me-but a little magic happened and I found Before I Fall on a shelf with a $6 price tag inside.  It was a sign.

I pushed back my major beach read, A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand, and started reading, right after we visited the National Zoo, which by the way was missing most of its animals the day we visited.  Disappointing.  It was hot. 

Before I Fall
470 pages

Samantha Kingston has it all; the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High-from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot.  Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life. (inside front cover)

It sounds like quite the life but it took only a few pages into the book to realize Sam leads a crazy life-one that was a little scary for me; a mom of a young girl that will one day soon be a teen. Sam's a mean girl-she wasn't always but became one in order to hang with Lindsay and be well,  popular.  As the reader you know from the beginning of the book that Sam is going to die in a car crash after a party but it gets snagged up in time and she relives that day seven different times, trying to get it right...or at least a little better. 

While the characters and their ability to be visciously mean to other people scared me I did enjoy getting to know the characters and the degree to which Sam Kingston is allowed to grow into a more thoughtful person. It's as if she goes through seven stages of  Dante's Hell in order to get to heaven.  While she's learning we get a peek into what makes the other characters, like Lindsay, mean.

It's good to know, according to Lauren Oliver, that bullies are basically insecure and choose to lash out due to their own lack of self-esteem.  Mentally it is good to know this but it doesn't help when you are the one made to feel like crap everyday of high school because some other h.s. student has decided to thrash on you. As Sam figures out how to make things better she notices the intricate threads that bind us all together.  Beautiful lesson for teens to learn.

The writing is eloquent with lots of gentl emetaphorical comparisons.   I loved Kent McFuller-he was a wonderfully written cool-geek!  This is a snippet of conversation between Kent and Sam:

..."You remember my old house on Terrace Place, right?"  The smile is back.  It's true: his eyes are exactly the color of grass.  "You used to hang out in the kitchen and steal all the good cookies.  And I chased you around these huge maple trees in the front yard. Remember?"
    As soon as he mentions the maple trees a memory rises up, expanding, like something breaking the surface of water and rippling outward.  We were sitting in this little space in between two enormous roots that curved out of the animal spines. (142)

This book should be read by parents as much as its intended young adult audience.  There is a ton of drinking, smoking and sex in the book-I know it happens in high school but for this group of friends it was all part of their scene.  As a mom all I could think was "please don't let my child act this way..."

Other thoughts on Before I Fall...

The Brain Lair
Slightly Bookish...she even has a playlist set up for this book.
Fate is Kind Book Review

Lauren Oliver's website.

Indie Bookstore


bermudaonion said...

As the parent of a high school graduate, I can tell you that a lot of them, but not all, do act that way. I need to make the time to read this book.

Monica said...

I don't read much YA either, but I've had this book on my shelves for awhile now. Maybe I'll move it up on my reading list.

Thanks for the review.

Rainbow Momma said...

Sounds like something I need to read. I read a couple YA this summer - Wake and Killing Mr. Griffin, and I have the Hunger Game series on hold at the library. I want to know what my girl will be reading in a few years. LOL!