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Magan: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

book cover for before i fallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Pages: 470
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Publisher: HarperCollins
Target Audience: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover borrowed from the library.
How I heard about it: I previously read Delirium by Lauren Oliver.

Summary: On February 12th, Sam dies. She re-lives the same day seven times, and each time has the chance to fix things that went wrong or to make things right that were so incredibly broken in her life. She learns a lot about her friends and how her decisions can impact everyone around.

In June 2011, I read Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I was on a huge dystopian kick and didn’t fall in love with Oliver’s work in the same way everyone else proclaimed to. Since then, I was hesitant to pick up Before I Fall. What if it was something I just didn’t enjoy? Or maybe Oliver’s writing just didn’t resonate with me?

I have to say, dear readers, that I am humbled to admit I was grasping for more and left in awe after reading this book.

I finished Before I Fall with tear-stained cheeks. I was choking back more tears. I stayed up until almost 2AM to finish this book, and couldn’t stop thinking. It’s like I could not turn my brain off. It made me think so much about how our decisions, even the most mundane, can impact someone else’s life so deeply.

When I was first introduced to Sam and her posse of best friends, I couldn’t stand them. They epitomized the term mean girls. They were obsessed with Sam losing her virginity that night to her “perfect” boyfriend. They were fixated on calling one another sluts and were so drunk and wasted. They were a huge turn off, to say the least. I didn’t know how Oliver would turn Sam into a likable character because she was beyond pathetic.

It was a gutsy move on Oliver’s behalf to make the characters so unlikable. However, the progression of the story was beautiful. It took time before Sam understood that each day she would wake up and relive the previous day over again. When things began to click in her head that what she did could alter how other people’s days would go, I wanted to jump up and down. Slowly I began to understand how little Sam really thought for herself, how intimidated she was by the thought of not being popular, and how her idea of perfect was shaped by her best friend Lindsey.

There was a lot of brokenness and hurt in Before I Fall, and much of it stemmed from Lindsey. She intentionally made life a living hell for Juliet. Sam’s clique called her Psycho and they hated her something fierce. Anna was another girl Lindsey antagonized and defamed. The questions that were always in my mind (and eventually in Sam’s) were why does Lindsey despise these girls so much? What happened?

Sam has to come to terms with the unpopular girl she used to be. A boy named Kent was a huge part of her life before Lindsey adopted her into the popular crowd. There were scenes with Kent that broke my heart and I cried big, sloppy tears. I was crushed by the idea of falling in love with someone and not being able to ever be with them. Kent has a deep love for Sam. He wants to be her protector. He, in all his nerdy gloriousness, is what every girl wants in a guy. He’s so dedicated to Sam, and in the beginning of the book I didn’t get it. I thought he was a weird, creepy geek that drooled over pretty, popular Sam. I loved that I came to know Kent’s true character in the same way that Sam did, slowly and tenderly.

I can’t express in words how much I feel impacted by this book. Usually I pick up another book almost immediately after I’ve finished one. I’ve waited more than 24 hours because I’m still letting things settle after finishing Before I Fall. There are two takeaways I have after reading this book:

  1. I have now re-read Delirium (and Pandemonium) because I think I may have just read it at the wrong time. I read it right after Divergent, another dystopia I loved, and I unrightfully compared these two books. Lesson learned: don’t read two like books back to back.
  2. The choices we make, no matter how big or small or how right or wrong they seem, still affect other people. I should remember Sam’s transition from selfish to selfless and pay more attention to how what I’m doing affects those around me.

Please, if you haven’t read Before I Fall, stop what you’re doing right this second and start reading it. I guarantee you won’t regret your decision and you will feel like you learned a huge life lesson when you’ve read the last page.

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May 8, 2014 - 12:52 pm

Nicole @ The Quiet Concert - I really enjoyed Delirium, but i was disappointed in the rest of the series so I was nervous to pick this one up too. Like you, I am so glad that I did! I thought it was wonderful. I agree that it was bold to make Sam and her friends unlikable at the beginning, but the growth in Sam’s character was so well done! I loved the premise and the execution with this one. It really brought the feels!

September 24, 2012 - 11:19 am

herbsterchey - i love it

June 16, 2012 - 10:55 am

Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books - I really, really want to read this book. I just recently got to see Lauren Oliver at a panel and she was just so inspiring and expressed herself beautifully. I have yet to pick up a book by her, but I will definitely have to remedy that.

May 31, 2012 - 5:20 am
April 5, 2012 - 9:13 am

Magan - Lena! No, can’t blame you. She was a terrible, mean girl in the beginning of the book. I am so glad her character evolved. I couldn’t have kept reading if she never “got it”.

April 5, 2012 - 9:13 am

Magan - Jasmine! Yes, you have to! Can’t wait to see what you think! :)

April 4, 2012 - 11:09 pm

Jasmine Rose - I’ve seen lots of differing opinions on this one, but I’ll definitely still be giving it a try since I adore everything else Lauren Oliver has written.

April 4, 2012 - 7:17 am

Lena - Yay, I’m so glad you liked it! I have to admit, I absolutely HATED Sam in the beginning of the book. Can you blame me? By the end, though, I really enjoyed watching her character progress and even got a little teary-eyed. *sniff sniff*

LOVE YOU, MAGAN!

April 3, 2012 - 11:05 pm

Sonia - Ahhh, I’m THRILLED that you loved this one! :) Lauren Oliver’s books always seem to hit me straight in the heart (she is definitely one of my absolute faaavourite authors) and this one was no exception!

I really loved what she did with Sam’s character. I went from HATING her to at least understanding a bit of where she was coming from and that was pretty impactful.

OH YES, KENT <3 I'm so glad that you gushed about his character because I loved him! Of course, the contrast between him and so many of the other characters probably helps but… I loved him :) He's sweet and adorable in that nerdy way of his.

Great review!

April 3, 2012 - 10:04 pm

Magan - Heyyyy Melissa! YES! I want to own a copy, too! Definitely! That reminds me, I need to create a “want to own” list. Glad the library saves me some $$, but I need to remember to purchase the ones I love! :) Thanks for your comment!

April 3, 2012 - 8:47 pm

Melissa @ Writer Grrl Reads - I’m glad that you enjoyed this one! This is definitely one of my favourite books of all time. I was halfway through reading a library copy and I honestly wanted to just return it, buy a copy and start reading my VERY OWN copy from the beginning. And I hear that they’re making it into a movie apparently? Not sure how it’s going to translate to film, but I’m intrigued!

April 3, 2012 - 7:43 pm

Magan - Hannah, I agree! The repetition was annoying in the beginning, but because it took so long for her to get the point, I began to have hope that maybe she wasn’t going to die. I became even more invested every single time the next day began. Totally love the last line of your comment. I felt the very same!

April 3, 2012 - 7:42 pm

Magan - MANDS! Yay for you getting a copy! Perfect timing. I’m going to be stalking your blog looking for your review. *puts on super stealth glasses*

April 3, 2012 - 7:41 pm

Hannah @ so obsessed with - Great review for a very interesting book! I was so impressed by her gutsy decision to make Sam so unlikeable. I mean, you’ve got to respect an author that takes a total biyotch of a character and makes you feel for her by the end of it. I did get a little annoyed at times by the repetition, but it was still a really great read! More than anything, I appreciated how this book made me really think about how I live my life and treat other people (in a totally non-cheesy way).

April 3, 2012 - 7:41 pm

VeganYANerds - Great review, Magan. I just bought a copy of this on the weekend and I was very lucky to meet Lauren yesterday at her book signing here in Sydney. She spoke about all of her books and I definitely want to get to Before I Fall very soon.

April 3, 2012 - 6:02 pm

Magan - Hey Aneeqah! Thanks for stopping by our blog! YOU SHOULD READ IT! The character development is incredible. Loved it! :) Can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

April 3, 2012 - 5:46 pm

Aneeqah - Wow! I didn’t realize this book was so good. I’ve heard some good things about it, but I haven’t really heard all that much about it. But I’m definitely going to be picking this up when I go to the library next! I actually recently met Lauren Oliver, who was amazing and so funny and so nice. This whole concept sounds pretty interesting, and I love books with character development. Plus, I loved Delirium and Pandemonium, so I’m definitely going to be picking this one up ASAP!

-Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

April 3, 2012 - 10:55 am

Magan - Elena, oh do I feel you. I’ve read a number of good books at the WRONG time. If you think this sounds even vaguely intriguing, maybe give it another try. I did with Delirium (and I didn’t think it was possible for me to like it) and now here I am… a Lauren Oliver FANGIRL. Haha.

April 3, 2012 - 10:50 am

elena - Ah, I had similar problems with Lauren Oliver’s writing! I think I probably read Before I Fall at the wrong time because I didn’t really like it. Then I read reviews like yours that make me want to reconsider my opinions! Especially since I enjoyed Liesl & Po and Pandemonium by her. It really is a gutsy move to make characters unlikeable and I commend Lauren Oliver for that! It’s way too often there are the boring, perfect protagonists which isn’t very realistic. Incredibly lovely review, Magan!

April 3, 2012 - 9:50 am

Magan - Anna! Thanks! Can’t stress that point enough. SO GOOD. I <3 Lauren Oliver.

April 3, 2012 - 9:47 am

Anna - “Stop what you’re doing right this second and start reading it” — YES THIS! I love it.

April 3, 2012 - 8:56 am

Magan - SHARON! Yes, hope on the love train for Before I Fall! (Does anyone get the Mary Murphy from So You Think You Can Dance reference…? Anyone…?)

April 3, 2012 - 8:55 am

Magan - Alice, you most definitely DO NEED TO READ THIS! I think this book (being so awesome and others not comparing to it) is why I feel like I’ve read a lot of “eh” lately. I hope you do read it! And then I want to know what you think! Tweet to us, please, if you do read it: @ReadingGals.

April 3, 2012 - 8:54 am

Sharon @ Fictionally Inclined - I really need to read this book! I’ve heard so many different things about it.

April 3, 2012 - 8:53 am

Alice - Ahhh I so need to read this book. <3 I saw a friend reading it a couple of years ago and the plot sounded really interesting. It's amazing that Lauren Oliver was able to do that…turn an instantly hated character into something so much more. I love seeing character development like that in books. <3

And for it to leave you with that kind of feeling and not being able to read anything for over 24 hours? wow. I definitely need to pick this up sometime…and read it somewhere privately so that people on the train don't see me sobbing my heart out. :P

April 3, 2012 - 8:03 am

Magan - GINGER! We found a book we disagree on. I never thought I’d see the day…

It was frustrating when she didn’t seem to be “getting it,” but I guess I just held tight to the hope that she would. Eventually. I adore Oliver, too. She’s so good, so good!

April 3, 2012 - 8:02 am

Ginger @ GReads! - I had a very different reaction to this book, unfortunately. I struggled to get through it & when I did – I deemed it one of the worst books I read in 2010 :( I get that Oliver wanted us to hate Sam, despise her character – I totally did. But I never got past that. I was never able to connect with her & understand her. I remained in that hateful state & I think that’s why I did not enjoy this book. The repetitive nature of the story really bugged me too. I get that it was part of the plot – but after the 3rd or 4th time she woke up I was thinking, really?! come on! lol

Ok wow, totally didn’t mean to be so negative in your comments! This is just one book I did not care for & have no problem expressing why. To each their own, right? I know lots loved it though. My thoughts on this book is in no way a reflection of my feelings on Oliver’s writing though. I ADORE HER. Delirium & Pandemonium – blew my mind!!!!

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