Friday, May 13, 2011

Book Review: Before I Fall

By Lauren Oliver

What if you had only 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.

Why I read it: I saw it pretty much everywhere and read a ton of good reviews for it, so I decided to give it a try, even though general fiction really isn’t my thing.

What I liked: This is certainly a book with a message, something that seems to be rare in commercial YA. At the beginning of the story the MC is a stereotypical ‘mean girl’ but throughout the book she becomes less self-centered until at the end she’s nothing like the girl she was at first. This transformation was super predictable, but it never felt forced, which impressed me. She went through several realistic stages, a day of complete disbelief, a day playing the bad girl, a day being all goody-goody… She felt so different each day, but it was always so connected that it felt real.

I have no quibbles with Oliver’s writing. Somehow she managed to take the exact same day and twist it so that we could read about it seven times and it was interesting each time. There isn’t exactly anything unique about her writing, but it carried the story perfectly. I always understood and empathized with the MC.

What I disliked: I won’t say much about this because I don’t want to ruin it for you, but I wasn’t satisfied with the ending. Basically, it didn’t seem to really satisfy the moral dilemma. There were so many problems in the story and the ending only seemed to fix one of them. Aside from that, I don’t see how the MC’s actions would really work the way they did…

Like I just mentioned, there was a lot of bad stuff in this novel. One of the main events of the day is a big party, where people are getting drunk or stoned or something. There’s an awful lot of sexual content, and while the MC never actually has sex, it was still a prevailing part of the story. Considering the ending, I never felt like there was any real hope for change. Maybe the MC has realized how empty it all is, but no one else really has.

From a Christian Perspective: I’m not sure if I would recommend this or not. There is an awful lot of bad content. There isn’t exactly a sex scene, but the story opens with the MC deciding to lose her virginity that night, and she gets pretty close at least once. She ends up kissing three guys during the story, and many other characters make out. Sex is discussed regularly, never explicitly, but still… There’s not an awful lot of swearing, unless you count ‘bitch’ as a bad word. The MC and her friends get drunk several times. Like I said earlier, the MC does come to realize that all this is really empty, but it’s never really called bad. The message is more ‘Don’t bully people’ instead of ‘don’t get drunk and have sex.’ I found this book was good for understanding how other people think, but I won’t read it again.

To buy or not to buy: I won’t be buying this book because I have no desire to read about Sam’s messed up life again. Others may really enjoy it, but in the end there’s just too much questionable content for me to actually buy it. 

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