Saturday, May 14, 2011
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
So it's not exactly an original idea, since it was pretty much Ground Hogs Day, but I still found the concept really interesting. Each day Sam wakes up and it's the same day, she tries changing things, small things at first, then larger, and is amazed and how much of a difference even the smallest change can make. The first day, she doesn't understand what happens, and pretty much lives out the exact same day, down to going to the party and getting in the car. And they're in an accident again. The second day, she convinces her friends not to go to the party, and that evening they learn that a girl from school, Juliet, who they merciless mocked at the party (the times they went) has killed herself. The second day Sam goes a little crazy and does things she never would do: stealing from her mother, making out with her math teach. She's thankful when she wakes up the next day and it never happened. After that, she starts trying to figure out why she's stuck, and she thinks it might have to do with Juliet.
When the book started, I hated Sam. She was pretty awful. I didn't want her to die, or anything, but she was a very unpleasant person. In a way, she was worse than the other popular girls in her circle were, because she'd been on the outside. She knew what it was like to be made fun of, and even with that knowledge she was cruel to other people. Purposely so. Sam and her friends are the stereotypical mean girls. They're pretty and popular and have hot boyfriends and everyone who's not in their group thinks they're bitches but is also kind of in awe of them. So definitely not a sympathetic character when the book begins.
I was actually surprised how many days it took for Sam to start changing. Even after she knows she dies in a car crash, she's stuck in this weird time loop, she knows another girl is suicidal, she still acts in her usual awful way to people. I guess that makes it more realistic though. Not even something weird and scary can make someone immediately repent the way they've acted for years. When Sam starts really trying to figure out how she can move on, she focuses on Juliet because she thinks it will ultimately help her. And then the way she tries at first, even though she does actually mean well this time, is completely inconsiderate and not thinking about Juliet's feelings and how she might react.
It was a really interesting book. It was also very popular at the book fair this week. It makes for a very intriguing book talk.
I want to talk about the end, but if you haven't read it, don't do the jump because it will totally ruin the whole thing. OK?
The end didn't work for me. I mean, I can understand how Sam being willing to sacrifice herself to save Juliet would free her. And it was like Sam was destine to die, and there was nothing she could do about it and she was just suppose to save Juliet. BUT! I didn't buy that the sacrifice would ultimately help Juliet. Juliet was so severally depressed. Would another girl, and girl she wasn't friends with and who was always cruel to her, dying for her make her better? Or would it make her depression more severe? It seems unlikely that Sam's friends (who haven't had the day repeating over and over again experience) would suddenly start be kind and supportive of Juliet, especially after their best friend has died saving her. It seems like things are about to get a whole lot worse for Juliet. Perhaps that isn't the important part, but I always think about what happens after a book ends, and it just doesn't seem like Sam's sacrifice is going to make anything better for Juliet.