Saturday, January 14, 2012

Before I Fall

I got a nice handful of YA books from my Secret Santa (bro-in-law) at Xmas - Before I Fall (2010) by Lauren Oliver was the first one I read.  It's about a mean girl, Sam and her mean friends who are in a car accident after a party and Sam gets killed.  But, she wakes up and relives that day all over again.  And again.  And again.

The premise is compelling, and even though I really didn't like Oliver's writing style very much, I could barely put Before I Fall down.  I just wanted to find out what happened and what changed every time.   What I also found interesting was how Oliver humanizes the bully.  She doesn't pull any punches with Sam and her friends, who do some truly rotten things to the other students at their school.  As Sam relives the day over and over, she becomes more cognizant of how her actions are effecting those around her, but she doesn't turn her back on the Queen Bee and her best pal, Lindsay.  
Lindsay, with her angel's face and messy, dirty blond hair and chipped black nail polish and battered leather Dooney & Bourke bag that always has a film of tobacco and half-unwrapped Trident Original at the bottom.  Lindsay, who hates being bored, always moving, always running.  Lindsay, who once said -"it's the world against us, babes" - drunk and looping her arms around our shoulders when we were out in the arboretum and really meaning it.  Lindsay, mean and funny and ferocious and loyal and mine. p.346
Oliver explores elementary theory from a combination of Butterfly Effect, Schrodinger's Cat, and a wee bit of Quantum Physics, as any decent time-travel story naturally would.  I'm obsessed with Quantum Mechanics so I enjoyed those bits:
It amazes me how easy it is for things to change, how easy it is to start off down the same road you always take and wind up somewhere new.  Just one false step, one pause, one detour, and you end up with new friends or a bad reputation or a boyfriend or a breakup. It's never occurred to me before; I've never been able to see it.  And it makes me field, weirdly, like maybe all of these different possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other moments layered underneath it that look different.  (p. 285)
I saw Young Adult recently - a movie about another Mean Girl played by Charlize Theron who happens to write YA fiction (unironically) about Mean Girls.  That stood as an interesting comparison to this book, for me, largely because Theron's character doesn't really learn any Life Lessons and also because it brought full circle for me this rather new (am I right?) concept of the Mean, Popular Girl as fictional heroine.  It's like, this girl is popular, smart, beautiful, witty, has a ton of fun, learns some Life Lessons (unusally) and comes out on top.  In any event, I'm sure Before I Fall would be quite interesting to teen readers and any adult like me that likes reading YA fiction.


Carrie said...

I really want to read the trilogy by Lauren Oliver since reading in "Time" that you'll like it if you liked The Hunger Games. Do you think that's true?

Special K said...

Uhm, kind of - but if you need a post-Hunger Games fix, I would recommend Divergent or the Matched trilogy.