Before I Fall is a novel which combines the qualities of a light read with deep and thought provoking content. I was recommended it by a lovely student in my tutor class. She was reading it each morning before school and when I asked her about she told me I should read it. Clearly it had a lot of subject matter to explore, so read it I did.
Our protagonist is Samantha, or Sam – ordinary high school student until life is dramatically changed (for lack of a better word) when she has to relive the day she dies over and over again. Like Groundhog Day. But instead, it’s Cupid’s Day.
Each day, certain variables stay the same and others change, mostly based on the actions Sam takes and the decisions she makes. At first she doesn’t realise what is happening, but as time passes (or repeats) she realises that nothing she does has any lasting impact, that the choices she makes will be wiped clean when she wakes up. While this has it’s perks, Samantha discovers that no matter how hard she tries to escape the circumstances in which her death occurs, tragedy befalls either her, or the girl her clique has bullied for years.
The story is about friendships and relationships, and being the best version of yourself. It’s about grief and acceptance, and it’s about making the right choices. Most of all it’s about courage and love and how you make the best of the time that you have.
The author weaves in a number of issues that young adults face in today’s high schools: bad relationships, political friendships, bullying and bulimia, popularity contests, drug use, underage drinking, cheating, peer pressure… you get the idea.
I find books that deal with conceptual things like time travel and the consequences of actions or the nature of death are often more compelling because these are issues that interest me. I love Donnie Darko and A Wrinkle in Time and Tom’s Midnight Garden for these very reasons. I don’t know if these concepts resonate with other people besides myself, but the fact they recur in literature must indicate a fascination in other readers. Why? I guess we have all made choices we wish we could alter, we have all seen the ripple effects of our thoughtless actions, we have all lost someone and wondered about what is beyond this life. These experiences are part of what makes us human. Our beliefs and actions are part of what makes us unique.
I really enjoyed this book but I did find Samantha’s process quite frustrating. I think this is meant to be the case, but nevertheless, it is hard to make the same ingredients compelling over and over again, even if they are shaken up differently.
“I can’t top thinking about how strange life is … about how complex and connected everything is, all threaded together like some vast, invisible etting – and how sometimes you can think you’re doing the right thing, but it’s actually terrible and vice versa.” Samantha, Before I Fall
My Rating: 3/5