I picked up Before I Fall on a whim when I was at the library last weekend. I actually mistakenly had it on my “read” bookshelf on Goodreads because the cover looked familiar, but I’ve never read it nor did I have any idea what it was about. I realized this, saw it on the library bookshelf, and decided to take it home with me.
Samantha “Sam” Kingston is one-fourth of the most popular clique of girls in not only the senior class, but the entire population of her high school. They get away with everything, have the coolest boyfriends, and generally run the school. Leaving a party one night, the girls get into an accident and Sam dies, destined to re-live her last day an excruciating seven times.
How do I put this nicely? Sam and her friends are what you would call huge bitches. Like, the worst of the worst. They are beyond brutal to one girl in particular, Juliet Sykes, calling her “Psycho” complete with knife-stabbing gestures, signs of the cross, and a song whenever she passes by. They constantly refer to each other as bitches, they skip class, drink, smoke, have sex with whomever (well, except for Sam and Ally, who are both still virgins), and spend their time thinking about how much better they are than everyone else.
It was incredibly difficult to read the first few “days” of this book because of what an awful person Sam is and the thinking it made me do about myself. I am in no way proud to admit this, but I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to Mean Girls: I’ve been ridiculed and harassed, and I’ve been the one to make up horrible names for other girls and talk about them. High school was not my shining moment. If I could go back, I’d keep my big trap shut and wouldn’t spend nearly as much time worrying about what everyone else thought. Based on my experience, insecurity is usually what leads to the girl-on-girl abuse.
Overall, this book was OK. Not great, not bad, just OK. I went online when I was done and read the reviews on Goodreads and I was absolutely shocked by how many four- and five-star reviews it received. People were raving about it like it was life-changing. Maybe I’m too old and missed something, but mostly I just found it another overly exaggerated high school tale. If high school is really the way it is portrayed in this book, then thank the Lord that I went to a Catholic school where stuff like this never happened. This will just reinforce my belief that my future children will go to Catholic school no matter what sacrifices we need to make as a family. (Yes, I realize bad things can happen anywhere, and yes, I am familiar with all of the stereotypes surrounding Catholicism in general and Catholic schools girls specifically.)
Before I Fall was well-written, and I did enjoy the transformation of Sam’s character, but I wasn’t “wowed” by the story or the outcome. It seems like a lot of readers were outraged by the ending, whereas I don’t quite understand how they could have been surprised. I thought the ending was very clearly laid out from if not the very beginning, then at least partially through the story.