Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Bookshelf: Lauren Oliver


I hope you've realized by now how often I give out five stars (rarely). I have nothing but love for Lauren Oliver's "Before I Fall". Not a single criticism, just plain simple awe. It was perfect. A perfect story with totally flawed characters, teenage drama, boys, girls, romance, hate, jealousy, fear, and love. It was everything a story should be.
So I still haven't finished the Secretariat book. I know what you're thinking, is it really taking her a month to get through a silly horse book? I know, it's beyond ridiculous. I'm about to read about the Belmont Stakes, the final leg in the Triple Crown so I know I'm close to the end of the tunnel. But this weekend I just wanted to read, the kind of reading where you curl up in your bed and get totally lost, lost to time and place and are fully immersed in the story. So I plucked "Before I Fall" from the pile on the coffee table and got totally lost.
"Before I Fall" begins and ends all in the same day, February 12th, Cupid Day. Samantha Kingston is one of the most popular seniors at Thomas Jefferson High School. She's got a hot boyfriend, the most loyal girlfriends, she practically rules the school. But at the end of the day, after a typical booze-fest party, she and her friends end up in a horrible car crash. And Sam dies. This is just the first chapter, I promise I'm not giving anything away that wasn't in the inside cover. For the rest of the novel Sam relives her last day over and over, each time learning something new about the people around her and trying to change the outcome so that the day won't be her last. In the process she learns more about herself than she probably would have over the course of years.
It suddeny occured to me while reading "Before I Fall" that in my own writing I've been placing my narrators in the "outsider" category. I wasn't doing it purposefully, except that it has always been just how the characters are. It's also what I know and I write what I'm familiar with. I was far from popular in school. And to be honest, I was fine with it because I had a great group of friends. But I think a part of me has always been interested in the dynamic of "being popular". My senior year of high school I was invited (totally a fluke) to a party in the fall. I dragged my best friend along with me (moral support) and we spent probably only an hour sitting at the kitchen table just watching the party go on around us. I have never felt more alien than I did in that hour as people gossiped, yelled, drank and caused general mayhem. And then a boy walked in the sliding doors next to me stark naked from the hot tub and I had this moment of thinking Is this really what the popular kids do every weekend while I'm at home watching silly teen movies? Shortly after the naked parade the cops showed up which scared the pants off of my bff and I (not literally, please) but we ended up having to sneak in the dark to the car and wait in total silence until the cops had entered the house so we could take off. There's soooo much more to this story but it's besides the point. Aside from this one tiny glimpse into the popular life I never lived it, so reading books about characters who excude cool have always fascinated me. "Before I Fall" was no exception.
Lauren Oliver's a brilliant writer. I don't say that lightly. Her characters were true and real and while I wanted, practically begged, them to act a certain way to alter the outcome they held true. As they should.
Back to Secretariat I guess. At this point, whenever I finish I don't think you'll want me to review it because I've grumbled about it so much now. So let's just move on to whatever I read next. Robby and I are planning to read "The Invisible Bridge" somewhat at the same time so we can discuss (i.e. email back and forth our comments and random tidbits about life and Starbucks). Perhaps I'll give that a go next. We'll see.
Until then, happy reading!

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