This was a hard line item for me – I knew that pretty much any YA novel could count, but I wanted to make sure I got a good one, and one that really spoke to the high school angle. I’d heard good things about Before I Fall, and for good reason – this is a really well-crafted novel! Basically, it’s Groundhog Day for a popular kid – Sam Kingston dies in a car accident and proceeds to wake up in her bed and relive the last day of her life over and over, until she figures out what she’s supposed to change about the way that last day went down.
Much like in Groundhog Day, around the middle of the book she starts desperately grasping at straws, seeing how far out of line she can go in an effort to do something, ANYTHING differently. She also begins to see herself and her friends differently, and wish that she could start over in various ways. She learns a lot of secrets and takes a lot of risks, safe in the knowledge that all she has to do is fall asleep to reset everything. And, of course, she figures it out eventually and orchestrates the way things were supposed to happen.
One thing that surprised me about this book was the fact that our main character is, if not THE popular girl, a member in good standing of the clique of popular girls. So often in YA you’re identifying with the loner, the weirdo, the non-popular kid, and it was a refreshing change to hear the inner monologue of the cool kid – particularly since Oliver handles it well enough that you realize throughout the novel that she’s really not that different than the non-cool kids. At the beginning Sam’s group of friends reminded me a bit of the ‘plastics’ from Mean Girls, but that comparison took a drastic dive as the plot progressed and we learned more about each of them in turn. I find the most fascinating character in the book to be THE popular girl, Lindsay. Even now I’m still trying to figure her out all the way, and wondering if the way that day eventually shook out will have changed her personality or behavior at all.
Definitely worth a read if you like high school stories or YA in general, and it was a quick read for me as well, so worth putting in the day or so it’ll take to read it.