Samantha Kingston has everything a teen girl could want: cool friends, popularity, a cute boyfriend. But on one fateful night, as she and her friends leave a party, they have a car accident, and Sam dies. Oddly, though, the next thing Sam knows, she’s waking up, and it’s the same day all over again. She does a few things differently, but the day still ends the same. And she wakes up and faces February 12 yet again. This replay of her day goes on for seven days, and each day she tries to do something different to change the course of events for herself and her friends. It’s on her last day that she realizes just what she must do to really make a difference.
Before I Fall can be painful reading because Sam and her popular friends are often quite cruel. They aren’t very likable; they are selfish, callous and superficial. It’s only several days into Sam’s week of replays that layers are peeled back and more is understood about the characters, and far into the book that they are more sympathetic. But Lauren Oliver captures the behavior and thought processes of teens quite well; her particular skill lies in making the unlikable characters real and three-dimensional as the book unfolds. By the end, she has succeeded in revealing the possible reasons behind Sam’s replayed day as well as made Sam a character to root for.
Rated: Moderate, for a moderately high amount of mild and moderate language as well as lots of teen drinking and a few drug references. There are references to teen sex and some somewhat intense making-out scenes. These teens talk about drinking and sex a lot and seem to have easy and unlimited access to alcohol. Of course, it is the same day played over and over, and that day includes a Friday-night party, so if it was a regular week instead of a week full of Fridays, it might not be so intense.