Have you ever made a mistake one day that haunts you when you go to bed that night? You think to yourself, “Why would I say that” or “I should’ve chosen to go somewhere else” or even “That wasn’t the right decision and I knew that.”
The thought of a decision you made aches in the back of your head, unable to shut off the persistent and lingering judgment you’re giving to yourself. Or maybe you didn’t even realize the impact of what you had done or said to outside parties.
Déja vu is defined as a feeling of having already experienced the present situation. It is the internal motion that one has lived through the specific situation and has “already seen” what is currently occurring. Popular high school senior Samantha Kingston knows this surreal experience all too well in Lauren Oliver’s young adult novel, Before I Fall.
Feb. 12, “Cupid Day,” was supposed to be a day of partying, roses and privilege for the ranking queen of the social pyramid, Samantha. However, that is until she dies that very night in a devastating accident. Darkness. Until the sound of the rhythmic alarm tone is heard in the background. She wakes up the next morning. And it’s Cupid Day. Again.
It continues to be this same day seven times over again, forcing Kingston to relive her last day until she realizes the faults she’s putting out into the world around her, the worth she didn’t know she embodied and the wrongs that she has the potential to make right, at her very fingertips.
Oliver did an amazing job contrasting between Kingston’s morals and the choices she makes. As the reader, you will begin to make your own assumptions about her character, but you will soon feel extremely conflicted. Through her wrongs, the feeling of empathy you instill upon her is impossible to ignore. Every morning she opens her eyes is a new chapter to understand who Kingston is and why she does what she does.
As a young adult, you already know how difficult it can be to find your true self. Attempting to navigate through your peers, not wanting to be the “odd man out” on decisions you may instinctively know are wrong. For most of Kingston’s life, she’s been the girl to light up the room she walks into. The “queen-bee” of the hallways in school. She’s been the girl shadowing the attitudes and bullying of her friend group.
Oliver centers her novel around just one question: If you had just one day to do over and make better choices, would you? Would you let go of the immature and disrespectful boyfriend you’ve latched on too for sake of popularity, and instead acknowledge and show interest in the nice guy who you’ve written off for so long?
Would you treat the quiet, timid girl sitting in the back of art class a little nicer? Maybe ask her how her day was, or what her favorite season is. Would you really see the beauty of life for what it really is? Would you appreciate your little sister who draws you pictures every morning and not treat your mom like she’s beneath you? These are all questions and actions Oliver raises in Kingston’s last day on Earth.
It’s truly breathtaking the way Oliver relives the same day seven times without an ounce of the story becoming redundant to the reader. Each day spent and each lesson learned is engaging and insightful to say the least.
Before I Fall isn’t just a story. It is 480 pages of thought-provoking observation and examination. It acknowledges the significant, life-altering consequences of miniscule actions, built up. Will Kingston get a second chance at life? Will she realize her wrongs, or continue down the same ugly path? Or is it all too late to reverse? I can assure you, you will not be expecting the ending until the very last chapter.
Before I Fall is now a major motion picture starring Zoey Deutch. The novel, named to numerous state reading lists, was recognized as Best Book of the Year by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Daily Beast, National Public Radio (NPR), and Publishers Weekly.
IMAGE TAKEN from Amazon
IMAGE TAKEN from IndieWire