November 2017

Lauren Oliver - Before I Fall

All of a sudden things start clicking into place – all the fears I’ve been holding back – one right after another like dominoes falling. I can’t deny it anymore. Sarah Grundel got the parking space because we were late. That’s why she’s still in the semi-finals. Anna and Alex didn’t have a fight because I convinced Lindsay to keep walking. That’s why we weren’t caught out at the Smoker’s Lounge, and that’s why Bridget is hanging off Alex instead of crying in a bathroom.

This isn’t a dream. And it’s not a déjà vu.

It’s really happening. It’s happening again.

Lauren Oliver’s best-selling novel “Before I fall” deals with the nightmarish idea of being trapped in time after death. Having to relive your last day over and over again, trying to change what’s happened to escape the burning feeling of guilt. The protagonist, high school senior Samantha Kingston, expected to have just another relaxed day in high school as she rises, woken up by the shouting of her best friend. It’s Cupid Day and since she has a boyfriend eager to sleep with her for the first time– to seal their relationship – enjoys being at the top of the social pyramid and is invited to almost every party going on in the neighbourhood, the day appears to be very promising. However she soon gets to know the entire truth in the old Yiddish adage:“Man plans, God laughs”, as she dies in a terrible car accident the same night.

Taking only the first few pages into account the book could have solely questioned the consciousness of human behaviour, whether life is ever to be fair or how parents and relatives could possibly deal with the loss of a young family member. But Lauren Oliver decides to have an intense twist in the plot as Sam is reliving her last day an agonising seven times before being able to recognize her own mistakes, correcting them and accepting her own death.

Although the plot itself is far off from being realistic, the setting, character traits and interactions are. Wherefore the reader is able to visualize the story to an astounding extent. Nonetheless the extensive description of Sam’s struggle to find a way out of the constant reversion in time can be a little tedious and I somehow feel constantly remembered of the fact that the fiction in the book is never to come true.

Yet the book made me think: what if I someday had the possibility to change at least my very last day alive to the better (best), would I alter what I did? Would I accept that I had to die? Or would I finally come to the conclusion – a thought Sam had as well – that rules and regulations lost their validity as I can simply wake up and nothings changed? It’s a question of responsibility, the asking for the way one changes other people’s life to the better or to the worse by a single action and the question of consciousness.

I’ve read both “13 Reasons why” written by Jay Asher and Gayle Forman’s “If I stay” and I’m happy to say that “Before I fall” is nothing short of both of them.

Being interested in detailed description of the agony Samantha Kingston went through after the traffic accident or what it’s like to be at high school you will definitely be disappointed. But if you are, however, interested in a thought-provoking novel, paying attention to even the slightest acts of kindness - the need for sharing love and respect - you’re spot-on.

 

 

Katharina Lohse, Year 12