Review: Before I Fall (book and movie!)

before i fall via paper trail diary

If today was your last day alive, and you had the chance to keep living it, what would you do differently? What would you say to the people you love? What would you learn about yourself? How long would it take for you to go a little bit nuts?

Lauren Oliver’s 2010 YA novel Before I Fall has just been turned into a movie, and it’s out this week. I had the pleasure of seeing a screening thanks to HarperCollins and Indigo. I really loved Replica so I was instantly interested. I bought the book a few weeks ago and finished it on Monday, just in time. So I want to share my thoughts on both with you guys!

February 12 is Samantha Kingston’s last day. It’s a normal day, besides being Cupid Day, the day girls measure their popularity in roses. Sam is one of the girls that gets the most roses, along with her friends Lindsay, Ally and Elody. They go to school, just like any other day. They act like they own it. That night, they go to a party. Two things happen from there: first, a girl named Juliet arrives. Juliet is the kind of girl that Sam and her friends bully – they call her psycho, make that old movie stabbing noise in her presence, and in this case, also throw drinks on her and force her out of the party. Sam doesn’t think too much of it, that’s just what they do. Secondly, on the way home, Lindsay (who is drunk driving) hits something and the car flips and crashes, killing Sam (and maybe her friends too, it’s never clear). But instead of never waking up, in fact, Sam wakes up again and again and again, all on February 12.

When reading the book, I was worried it would become repetitive, having to tell the same things over and over. But every day, Sam tries something differently or new entirely, trying to find the key that will make the weirdness stop. It became addictive, and I’d be curious at how much more she’d unravel or what she would do. While the plot becomes pretty predictable, it was still enticing to read. I gave it 4/5 stars. I love Lauren’s writing and am looking forward to catching up on her backlist before the sequel to Replica comes out!

Before I Fall hits a lot of important messages for teens. Maybe you think there’s a lot out there with these messages by now but a) the book came out in 2010 and b) you can’t have enough out there that tries to help, in my 0pinion. We’re talking bullying. We’re talking love. We’re talking living for the moment. We’re talking judging mental illness. We’re talking reality. While some of that can come across as cheesy, I think in this context, it worked fine. To me, both the book and movie seemed real enough. And one important thing is that the characters are nowhere near perfect. Lindsay is a fascinating character because while she is fiercely loyal to her friends, she can also be seriously awful to people who aren’t like her. She actually has suffered a lot, and instead of opening up about it to her friends, she takes it out on others. She is that kind of bully. Sam lies somewhere between Lindsay and the rest of the students — she used to be unpopular, the girl who rode horses (suuuup?), a girl who Lindsay bullied, too. She remembers her past, but only acknowledges it when confronted about it. She’s comfortable with how her life’s been going. Until she has to live it over and over again, and she realizes where all the cracks are. She learns that she can be better, she has the capabilities of making a difference even if it’s just for one person. And she can allow herself good things, too.

The movie was filmed in BC, and it’s gorgeous. It’s basically got a blueish filter over it during the whole thing, but you get used to it. It fits. I really liked the beauty of the scenes in the woods, and plus, they were set to great songs. I was so excited about this movie’s soundtrack, it’s straight outta my iTunes. Grimes, Shamir, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kurt Vile, Empress Of… *kisses fingers* (Though it is kind of … 2014-2016, ha!)

While I don’t think the movie will reach the same kind of heights as some other YA movies, I think it’ll still do pretty well for itself. The dialogue is a bit corny sometimes, enough to make you laugh at it, and sometimes Sam’s character can be a bit too ghostly, but overall I enjoyed myself and the story and would recommend it!

Now I’ll leave you with some random other thoughts about the film:

  • I’m always fascinated to see what will change, and often it’s things you never would have thought about. In terms of big things, I can tell you it’s a good thing they cut stuff out with Sam’s teacher, except for one scene. A lot of Lindsay’s depth is cut out, but it’s alluded to, so it’s not fully gone. She needs some context. Some characters are cut out entirely – like Tara and her friends (that second-tier group of girls), Bridget and Alex. Anna is gay in the film, whereas in the book she’s ‘white trash.’ Tiny details too, like Kent remarks on his father dying in the film but in the book it’s his grandfather. Random!
  • I hear that Kian Lawley is a big deal, YouTube-wise. I really don’t know. But he’s barely in this movie. You hardly see his face. Sometimes when he’s speaking in scenes you don’t actually even see him speak. Rob is a pretty useless character, merely there for device for Sam, but I woulda thought a guy like that would’ve had more screen time, especially when he’s one of the big billed names, even though Logan Miller has a much bigger role as Kent.
  • I dug how in the movie there was a tad bit of diversity in terms of Ally and Elody. I don’t think their cultures are ever specified in the book though, so that leaves it open.
  • Do teens still say bae? Do they still Snapchat? I assume so, but I genuinely am curious, as this becomes a critical debate among adults who read YA… a lot. I’m not really sure if it even matters. Plus, adults always like to say ‘do people do/say X these days?’. I want to remind folks that even though adults read YA, they’re still not the target audience (book or movie-wise, in this case). On that note, if you know of any teens who blog about YA books, please share with me, as I’d really like to hear more from what teens actually think about these kinds of stories and new YA books. I’m so curious if these messages are coming across the way we think they should?

Have you read Before I Fall? Do you want to see the movie? 

This entry was posted in Books.