Thursday, December 05, 2013

YA Book of the Week

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

“Here's one of the things I learned that morning: if you cross a line and nothing happens, the line loses meaning. It's like that old riddle about a tree falling in a forest, and whether it makes a sound if there's no one around to hear it.

You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That's how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to bust out of orbit, to spin out to a place where no one can touch you. To lose yourself—to get lost.

Or maybe you wouldn't be surprised. Maybe some of you already know.

To those people, I can only say: I'm sorry.” –Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

*Before I Fall deals with difficult subjects—recommended for older teens*

Stumbling upon Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall was one of the best things I could have done to expand my scope of YA fiction. I had noticed the title continuing to pop up on Goodreads “best of” lists, but never took the plunge. One day, about a month ago while shelving at a public library, the book landed in my hands and I decided to see what the fuss was about.

The book sets up a grim premise: Samantha Kingston, a popular high school student, dies in a car crash after attending a party with her three best friends. Thing is, she wakes up the next morning only to live the same day over again. Sound like we’re back in 1993 with Bill Murray’s iconic Groundhog Day? We are, but this time it is February 12th and we’re at high school trying to figure out how to end the recurring cycle so this girl Sam can move on, wherever that may take her.

Oliver captures high school angst, popularity, friendships and tackles hard subjects of teen depression, drinking, and suicide in a way that is raw, but real. In this book teens don’t die because of warlocks or dystopian war, but rather because of problems that real teens face. Oliver seems to break through the shimmering façade fantasy YA creates— she deals with tough subjects head on, teens don’t need spells or the looming apocalypse to willingly express their feelings. For me, breaking back into realistic YA fiction from the paranormal was effortless because of Oliver’s care in crafting her story (she has written a  supernatural YA series and I will be getting to that at some point soon…).

Sam Kingston’s transformation from day one through day seven is affected by each character in the world Oliver creates. Oliver doesn’t use fatigued devices even though the setting seems familiar, but rather, creates a pocket where her characters can breathe and remain, seemingly static, but always pushing forward.

This book brought me back to high school. As a reader, you wish you could help Sam. More hauntingly, I felt as though her transformation mirrored what mine or how I now imagine my high school self would have been if I were in her shoes.

I have to admit, I partially listened to the audiobook while reading—I have found that Lauren Oliver’s choice of Sarah Drew (from Grey’s Anatomy, etc.) as voice actor for her books is a fantastic  choice and Drew's take on Elody’s character is truly fabulous.

Overall rating: 9/10—(suggested for older teens 16+)

Check it out at Pesky: FIC OLI
Stay tuned for next week! :) Ms. Zephir


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