For Samantha Kingston, popularity is everything, especially on February 12, “Cupid Day,” when all of the seniors will be receiving their roses from admirers. In the young adult novel “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver, Samantha spends her day worrying about her perfect boyfriend, her perfect friends and her seemingly perfect life. That is, until she dies in a fatal car crash later that night.
But Samantha doesn’t fall into the abyss or pass into the afterlife. She finds herself in her bed, waking up on February 12 as if the car accident never happened. However, she’s the only one who realizes that the day has repeated itself.
In fact, Samantha experiences seven repeated days. Each one she relives, she makes the slightest changes, hoping that somehow she will get out of her purgatory. Each day, she makes both minute and drastic changes to her life, trying to live without fear.
As she move throughout the “week” Samantha must take a sharp look at her life and determine what she holds most dear. She experiences all of the stages of grief, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, most importantly, acceptance as she prioritizes her relationships with her boyfriend, friends and family. She gets reckless, lashing out at those around her and making rash decisions.
In this novel, Oliver places her audience into a hyper-aware purgatory, allowing the reader to agonize over the importance of each mundane event in life. Anything can happen in the next five minutes – it’s how you go from there that sets the tone for what’s to come.
Not only do you have to live life, you also have to think about how that life-changing event will impact your view of the world. As Samantha dies and is reborn each day, her ideas about the people in her life change. She reconsiders her relationships with friends, her boyfriend, the people she lost touch with years ago and even her family.
But most importantly, Samantha learns about herself. Before she died, Samantha never thought about the people that she belittled. The realization that careless interactions with others can have a fatal impact allows her to learn the value of dying at the right time and for the right reasons. There is a depth to everyone, if only you stop to look beneath the surface.
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