Before I Fall tells of Sam's final moments, although in a YA novel there's always the hope for a happy ending. I spent most of the afternoon engrossed in the 470 pages of Lauren Oliver's novel, wanting Sam to survive and to get that happy ending.
The basic plot is very familiar--Sam relives the day of her death, trying to change minor details and find a way to make things work out in her favor. Settling into the novel, I reconciled myself to a combination of Our Town, Miracle on 34th Street, Groundhog Day, Sliding Doors, and Heathers. I was so happy to find that Before I Fall was so much more than that.
As we follow Sam through her last day, we see her interactions as a member of the most popular clique in school. The steal parking spaces, gossip, flirt with teachers, cheat, get drunk, call each other "slut", and intimidate younger students. Suddenly our heroine doesn't seem so heroic. This is the beauty of Before I Fall: the characterization makes you love and hate them all, like real people. No one is the straightforward villain, and almost everyone has a chance to be the hero. I applaud Lauren Oliver's writing, as she essentially wrote the same day over seven times, but managed to make the novel so gripping that I couldn't put it down.
Talking too much about the plot will spoil some of the surprises--of which there are many-- so I will just highly recommend that teen readers check out Before I Fall as soon as possible.