2 September 2009

Review: BEFORE I FALL by Lauren Oliver *****

US: "What if you only had one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
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.
Instead, it turns out to be her last. Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing."

UK: "Sam Kingston is dead. Except she isn’t.
On a rainy February night, Sam is killed in a horrific car crash. But instead of seeing a tunnel of light, she wakes up in her own bed, on the morning of the same day. Forced to live through the same events – the drive to school, skipping class, the fateful party – she struggles to alter the outcome, but wakes up again on the day of the crash.
What follows is the story of a girl who comes of age in a matter of days. Who discovers, through heartbreaking insights, the consequences of her every action. Of a girl who dies young, but in the process learns how to live. And who falls in love . . . a little too late."

This extraordinary book doesn't come out till March 2010, but I got a chance to read the ARC thanks to the wonderful Kate (thank you!!!)! The plot description sounded intriguing, but I never really expected the book to be *so* incredibly amazing! I was kindly advised to postpone my review for a few months, but I'm afraid I just can't because I really feel the need to talk about this book. That's why this review will be a bit different - no regular plot summary with spoilers and perhaps a bit more vague because I don't want to give too much away - you just have to read this book and experience it for yourself, hehe.

Firstly, a quick spoiler-free summary: Sam is a high school senior and her life seems just perfect; she and her three friends (Lindsay, Ally and Elody) are the most popular girls at school and she's dating Rob, her long time crush and a dream come true. The story takes place on February 12, Cupid Day, and after receiving the most roses at school, the girls attend a party at Sam's old friend's house. When they're driving home from the party, the girls have an accident, which will change their lives forever ... Sam is convinced she's dead, but when she opens her eyes, she's stunned to realize that it's February 12 morning all over again. Soon she learns that the previous night wasn't just a dream and that she's given a chance to make things right and say goodbye properly, but before being able to do so, she learns a lot about herself and those closest to her ...

I don't even know where to begin with my review, there's so much that I want to say!
Well, I'll admit that I wasn't entirely blown away by the opening chapter - I thought it would be just another high school story and the characters seemed quite stereotypical and one dimensional, buuuuut little did I know that they were going to be subjected to massive transformations and development before the day is over - a few days later, haha. I didn't really like any of the characters at first, but whoa boy did I grow to love them by the end of the novel!

The story itself is really complex (but still easy to understand) and it really progresses, even though the date on the calender stays the same throughout the novel, but each of those days is completely different and packed with action. The main events are mostly the same, but each "day" there are various more or less important changes from the previous day that enable Sam to understand everything better and I suppose it's safe to say that she has a clear picture by the end of the novel when she finally gets her priorities straight just in time.

I thought the novel was really well written; the narration itself is fitting for a teenager but far from boring or plain, it's really quite beautiful. The novel is also incredibly well structured and I really liked how subtly layers hidden underneath the surface of people and events were revealed. I found it really fascinating how basically the same day was repeating itself, but all these slight changes and little things shed a completely different light on everything. I struggle to explain this properly, I was just amazed by how subtly and yet obviously the changes happened in this novel, but that's because of the structure and the writing. Trust me, the book is truly unputdownable - it's easy to read, but it will not let you out of its grip until you find out how the day ends and then you just want more, hehe!

Another strong point (out of shazillion) of this novel is that the emotions that Sam feels are also really well presented - her feelings of confusion, sadness, anger, determination, happiness, love and finally acceptance were almost tangible. As a reader, you're invited on this wild emotional rollercoaster ride and it's crazy right until the amazing bittersweet ending, which is beautiful but still sad, even though it shouldn't be really.

Ahem, right. Please accept my humble apologies for such a strange and vague review, but it's really hard to discuss it properly without revealing too much. I know reviewing it so much in advance is really quite pointless, but as I said, I just needed to get it out of my system somehow. I'm still amazed by how powerful this novel really is - I've finished it days ago and it still haunts me, I just can't get it off my mind ...

The novel is essentially YA, but it definitely has a crossover appeal as the themes it tackles are universal and so well presented that it will appear to everyone, regardless of age. The lessons Sam learns about her family, friends, foes, love and life are quite important both in the novel as well as in real life so the novel really makes you think ...

Whoa, this was longer than I intended, but still just a small bit of what I actually wanted to say. I suppose most people won't bother reading the review so here's a quick recap for the tl;dr crowd: NICELY COMPLEX PLOT, WELL STRUCTURED, WONDERFUL CHARACTERS, BEAUTIFUL WRITING, THOUGHT PROVOKING, EMOTIONAL - ALL IN ALL, AN OUTSTANDING DEBUT! Add this to your TBR list and grab a copy when it comes out, you won't regret it.

I just can't praise this book enough, I was honestly blown away and rendered speechless after reading it. Novelicious has read it over the past weekend as well and she described it as the best book she's read in ages and she stayed up whole night reading it - I know so because we discussed it briefly on Twitter and we were both amazed.

Finally, a couple of shocking facts about the author: this is her debut novel aaaand she's only 26!!! Trust me, you'll be amazed by that too once you read the novel, hehe! For more information about the author and her book visit Lauren's website. There are a couple of brilliant quotes there that I thought sum up the book really well (far more eloquently than I ever could) so I thought I'd share bits that I wholeheartedly agree with:

"Before I Fall is smart, complex, and heartbreakingly beautiful. Lauren Oliver has written an extraordinary debut novel about what it means to live—and die." & "This story races forward, twisting in a new direction every few pages, its characters spinning my emotions from affection to frustration, anger to compassion. You’ll have no choice but to tear through this book!"

Since finishing the novel, I've also spoken to the author over email and she really is the most wonderful person ever, honestly, just as amazing as her debut! She has kindly agreed to do an interview with me, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait for that until February 2010 or so! Sorry to keep you in suspense, but I just needed share my love for this book, even if a few months too soon, but at least my impression of it is still fresh and strong, hehe.

overall rating: 5/5
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5

ps: Another person who adored the novel is Sharon, who's kindly giving away her advanced copy. For a chance to win it, click here and good luck!


sharonluvscats said...

"I don't even know where to begin with my review, there's so much that I want to say!" haha I pretty much start my review with the same sentence. It is such a complex book I'm having a hard time expressing all of my thoughts on it, but you did a lovely job!

I finished it two days ago and I still can't get the story out of my head. Do you have a favorite scence? I like the one where she smokes with katie in the bathroom. oh this book was just so good, they better not mess it up and turn it into a movie!

sharonluvscats said...

oh and im feeling too lazy to spell check and use punctuation marks. lol i think that twitter is a bad influence.

bookalicious said...

I know how you feel, the book refuses to leave my mind too - but I can't say I mind, hehe!

Ooh, a favourite scene, hmmm ... I couldn't possibly choose just one as many of them are so powerful, but those that particularly stand out for me are mostly at the end of the novel ... The family & Kent scenes, or perhaps when she takes Izzy to that special place ... I just can't decide, there are so many memorable scenes - I'm just so happy I got the chance to read such an incredible book!

And I agree with you on the film - I mean, the story as such has film potential, but since it's based on a book it can do nothing but ruin it. I just don't think the film could capture all the emotions of the novel, but you never know what will happen if this novel gets really big (which it should!). :)

ps: So glad to hear that you're a vegetarian and a feminist among all other great thing, woohoo, you win! *high five* :D

Dot said...

This sounds so good, your review is excellent, going to look out for it when it comes out!

Diane said...

I think this one sounds great. Your review was excellent. thanks

Chloe @ chicklitreviews said...

We've been sent this from Hodder too and I can't wait to read it after reading your review! Chloe x

bookalicious said...

Thanks, Dot and Diane! :)

Chloe - you already got the proof? Lucky! I just checked and it's already up on Amazon UK - they provided a very nice summary actually and you can see there that everyone who's read the novel has been blown away. I hope you'll enjoy it too and I'm looking forward to reading your review eventually!!

Meggin said...

Falling over myself with jealousy! I never can seem to get this stuff. Glad you liked it, it looks totally awesome :)


Chloe @ chicklitreviews said...

The proof is in the post, hoping to get it tomorrow. Isn't it a bit early to review it though considering its not out for 6 months?!

bookalicious said...

Yes, I know it's kinda silly, but I explained in my post why I went along with the review nonetheless (plus I asked the author for permission first) and besides, I'll be reposting it around the pub date with the full summary and an interview. :) The book is featured in a lot people's Waiting on Wednesday meme so I thought they'd like to know it's good stuff and hopefully it'll get them even more excited. :)

Lauren said...

This is an *awesome* review! It sounds like it's really something special, and I cannot wait to read it!

Rebekka said...

Now you made me SO curious I wish I could read the book now too!
Why is March that far away? :/

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