June 18, 2013

Book Talk: Before I Fall

This is my first book talk/book review since... well, for about a year! I have been reading books, just not writing book talks. Since I will be in a high school and middle school library in August, I thought I'd better get a move on and start reviewing some great YA books. So, after searching the library catalog. I came away with Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

I went to high school. I know about the cliques and the bullies and the drugs and sex and drinking... but this book confirmed one thing for me:
 This fact is laid out for the reader as if Lauren Oliver were holding a large, flashing, neon sign before my eyes. High school girls are scary. Mean high school girls are even scarier and mean high school girls who know they are mean are the scariest. Sam is a mean girl who knows she is mean. She almost gets off on being mean. This is what I thought about Sam for the first 100 pages of the book- even though she had died twice by this point:

This book was Mean Girls meets Heathers meets It's a Wonderful Life meets Groundhog Day all rolled in to one- but it read like a realistic fiction novel.
Sam is part of the most popular group of girls in school. She and her friends go out of their way to me mean to everyone they come in contact with- including teachers, siblings, parents and the general public. Sam had everything- looks, grades, money, hot boyfriend... but she still insisted on being mean. I knew girls like this in high school- I was lucky enough to be off of their radar, but I knew what they were capable of.
Sam and her friends head to a party on Valentine's Day where they are confronted by the girl they have bullied and harassed since fifth grade. Juliette Sykes, dubbed Psycho, bursts into the party, calls all the girls bitches and leaves.  Hey Sam, Taylor Swift wrote a song about you- you might know it:
 The party continues as if nothing happened and at the end of the night everyone leaves. Sam and her friends (who have all been drinking) pile into the car a leave. 

On their way home, they get in a car accident. Sam, who was sitting in the front seat blacks out and when she wakes up in the morning- she thinks she must have bumped her head and everything is fine- but it is Valentine's Day again.
Sam figures out that she must have died in that car accident and she is living the same day over again. She has a chance to live this day again- to get it right and may be not die. But she doesn't get it right. She continues to be a mean girl. At one point I hate her worse than I did when she is alive.
As the book progresses and Sam keeps reliving the same day, we see that Sam is starting to get it- she is realizing that her actions have consequences. She also realizes that she needs to take responsibility for her own actions and try to make things better. But- she just can't get it right. She lives the same day 6 times in a row, each day becoming a better person, each day trying to get her story right- but she is missing something. On the 7th day, she wakes up and realizes that she doesn't need to get her story right, she needs to get the story right for those around her. So here I am on the day that I know Sam is finally going to die (or is she? Could she live??) and I finally like her.

In the end, Sam has done the right thing, set a good example for those around her and encouraged me, and hopefully you, to slow down, enjoy each day and each moment- tell people you love them- because you never know if you will get another chance to get your story right.

But seriously- bullying is not something that I take likely. If you are bullying someone stop. Stop now. If you are being bullied- get help. Ask your parents, a neighbor, a friend- your librarian- for help. Grown ups do care and want to help. If you are too scared to talk to someone face to face, click here: http://www.stopbullying.gov/get-help-now 
If you or someone you know if considering suicide- you need to get immediate help. Do not wait. You can click here to enter Crisis Chat and get immediate, one-on-one help http://www.crisischat.org/ or call 
1-877-YOUTHLINE 1-877-968-8454 to get help from other teens. It is never too late. 

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