Friday, August 6, 2010

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

Sunrise was at 5:53, sunset will be at 8:36, August 6, 2010.

Cool today, this morning, anyway. A nice breeze, wind chimes chiming, fountains fountaining, Blue Angels ummm...ROARING! The closer they are to the house, the higher the pitch of the engines. They really do scream.

(Photo by Greg Gilbert of the Seattle Times.)
I-90 is silent, no freeway noise at all. I can't hear I-5 from here and Rainier is barely audible unless we're upstairs. It's a little eerie not to hear the buzz and rumble, the almost oceanic lull, of the traffic on Blue Angel days.

I can only imagine the utter frustration of someone traveling from far away, just getting ready to cross the lake, and being stopped dead for hours while the jets practice their rollovers and side by side flying. I hope they brought something to read and a little something to drink. Some of those travelers will have exquisite views of the show.

D's office is on the 19th floor of a "skyscraper" downtown and he was in a meeting facing SW when they were practicing yesterday- they were probably just outside the windows, close enough to see smiles and thumbs up as they flew by.

I just finished Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver, the story of a girl who dies and then relives that last day, over and over. She's given the chance to try and repair the wrongs she's inflicted on other people through the years.

Sam has everything: looks, friends, she's popular, has the perfect boyfriend, and on this day, Cupid Day, things couldn't be going better. There are a few thorns in all the roses she's collected as valentines, an old ex-friend who still pays attention to her even though she is mean to him, a girl everyone calls Psycho, but nothing she can't deal with. She is nervously looking forward to the party at the end of the day, a party at her ex-friend's house, where she is expected to lose her virginity to her boyfriend. Finally.

When Sam's evening doesn't exactly go the way it was supposed to, she and her friends decide to go home, drive too fast and hit a tree. There are flames and screaming and then Sam wakes up to the alarm ringing in her ear, and it is February 12, again.

It takes awhile but Sam eventually realizes that she is reliving the last day of her life, and that maybe she can swerve the end of the night and not die if she can fix how she got there.

Over these seven days she begins to see how horrible she has become, how every word she speaks has the ability to strafe or inspire and that she always chooses the strafing, how she chose to go to the dark side because she was afraid to lose the friends she had. She begins to understand more about herself and how she got this way, and each day gains more insight and wisdom into her self and the people she loves. She also begins to realize that the end result isn't so much how to keep herself from dying, but how she can leave the lives she's made such a mess of better when she's gone.

It's a rough book to read. Life is such a hard thing to learn: everyone is scared, no one knows how it's supposed to go, and few people, even the grownups, maybe especially the grownups, really have any answers to anything - we all make it up as we go along, trying to find a place in our lives where we can feel safe. There aren't any rule books, you can only hope you're doing it right.

It was a page-turner, that's for sure. There was a lot of tenseness as Sam plays around with each day, as each day spins toward the inevitable end, a lot of head-slapping when she'd do something that seemed really stupid. I worried that she'd run out of days before she got it right, I wondered if everyone else who died in the wreck had their own 7 days that they were tweaking and smoothing and if it was affecting the way Sam was fixing hers. These kind of time warping books always leave so many questions behind.

Before I Fall is Lauren Oliver's first book, her debut novel, and her second book is Delirium, a novel about about surgically removing love and emotion from the brain to keep one from feeling the intense emotions that make us unhappy or giddy, to keep us blandly even-keeled. Not bad for a new author, to have two books in a row that are both one-sit reads. Yay, Lauren! Ages 14 and up. (HarperCollins. Hardcover, 17.99. Available now.)

1 comment:

  1. I haven't red it yet, but I put it on my list yesterday after reading another review.

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