Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Before I Fall

Oliver, Lauren. 2010. BEFORE I FALL. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780061726804 [Suggested Grade Levels 10-12]

Samantha is a popular high school girl with a coveted boyfriend and trendy friends. She and her friends maintain their status level by trouncing on those on the lower rungs. As the story opens, Samantha explains that she has died in a violent crash. As she relates the day’s events before the crash-- Cupid Day rituals at school, her plan for losing her virginity, the despicable jokes she and her friends play on others-- readers may think, “Good riddance.”

However, when Samantha awakes to re-live the day again and again, she soon learns that changing one action can alter the course of events. Like the reader, Sam doesn’t understand whether she is really alive or in some kind of limbo between two worlds. Her willingness to change her ways in order to affect a new outcome will earn back the reader’s respect and empathy. The dialogue is realistic and Oliver obviously understands the mindset of high school cliques. Teen girls will especially enjoy re-living the same day, anticipating what changes will occur. Some may be dissatisfied with the ending, but the outcome is certain to invoke thought-provoking conversation.

Samantha discovers that changing one event can alter the future. Invite readers to write about a day when they did something bad. Given the opportunity to correct that action, how might subsequent events have changed? Present a situation that requires one to make a split-second decision. Ask readers to create a flow-chart depicting a cause-effect sequence based upon a single decision or action.

Other books with narration by a deceased character:
Sebold, Alice. THE LOVELY BONES. ISBN 9780316666343
Woodson, Jacqueline. BEHIND YOU. ISBN 9780399239885
Zevin, Gabrielle. ELSEWHERE. ISBN 9780374320911

By Rebecca S. McKee

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