Before I Fall

Some books are…

what. 


Before I Fall


  • Author: Lauren Oliver
  • Publisher: Harper Teen
  • Year: 2010
  • Genre vibe: It’s contemporary Life and Death Stuff, but there is a definite twist of surrealism
  • At a glance: Samantha’s last day is something else. And then it’s something else. And something else after that. Seven times she relives the last day of her life, discovering along the way everything she was missing, and some things she wasn’t. 

Just like my story with many of the greats, my introduction into the world of Lauren Oliver has been a long time coming. Always meaning to, never getting around to it. And then at graduation, a lovely friend of mine gave me Before I Fall. Even then: meaning to, not getting to it. And then I actually picked the thing up. And let me tell you this: I made a grave mistake. 

Every book on my shelf has a story attached to the reading of it, as does, I’m sure, every book on yours. The stories that go along with the stories are important to me. With this one, the stage is set with a reading slump. All yours truly wants to do is re read April Tucholke books, dammit. And she can’t decide what to read or how to read it, so it’s midnight and she picks up the nicest looking thing on her TBR. 

Three days later she’s been on the ride of her life and has a vague existential crisis. 

Here’s the thing about Before I Fall: It is so wonderfully crafted, that even by the time you get to the point of only having twenty pages left, you have no idea how sh*t’s gonna go down. 

None. 

At all. 

This book is the kind of sweeping idea that gives nothing away beforehand, the kind of story approach that is so good at leaving you wondering what’s around the corner that you’re not even tempted to peek ahead: you just keep reading. You have to know, and you don’t just want to know, you want to see. Oliver is a genius at taking you along for the ride and making you as a reader feel as though you are observing everything from a standpoint right beside Samantha. You feel it all

Lauren Oliver is a YA legend. This is, for the most part, general knowledge. And she doesn’t disappoint, not one bit. Ever since I finished Before I Fall about a week ago, it’s been haunting me. Like someone’s ghost. Like I need to look through it again, just to make sure it really, truly happened. This, in my opinion, is quite the feat to pull off as a storyteller. To create something that follows its consumers around. That’s the goal, right?

Well, Oliver succeeded marvelously in my opinion. And while I can’t say for certain if I ever really will re read Before I Fall–I feel like it’s something best experienced for the first time, and then remembered–I could continue gushing about it for a while. 

Another of the things I loved so much about it was the sheer depth of character. Not only in the cast, but in the story itself. This is a book that isn’t driven by any one thing alone. Events hold just as much weight as insights, and vice-versa. The impact of any given thing is just as much a catalyst to the plot as the actual thing that happened. This book is as much about action-reaction as it is anything else, which I feel is–almost, sort of, a little bit–the point. 

There are a lot of books in the vein of Before I Fall. But it’s going to take something pretty incredible to surpass it in my mind. 

So before I continue gushing everywhere, let’s go overall: 

  • Rating: 5/5 stars 
  • Recommended to: People who prefer strong characters, people who enjoy surrealism, people in general, people that love teenage girls especially. 
  • Lasting impression: How stringy your hair gets when it’s soaked with rain, specifically, not just water. Driving, with the windows down and the music up, and you can’t remember how you know all the words. Your favorite breakfast, and the mirrors-edge feeling of looking at your life from the outside. 

Every Day

Sometimes you hear about a book over, and over, and over again. And then despite your reasons–despite the “it’s really not my genre” and the “I look at it every time, but it’s just never grabbed me” and the hesitation–you finally pick it up. And you’re a little confused. 

  • Author: David Levithan
  • Publisher: Knopf, Listening Library
  • Year: 2012
  • Genre vibe: I hesitate to say contemporary, but it’s certainly not supernatural or surrealism.
  • At a glance: Every day, A wakes up in a new body, and a new life, and yet is always still A, an individual. Then A falls for Rhiannon, a girl who’s boyfriend’s life A wakes up in one day. Existential outlooks on life ensue, as does the pursuit of potentially starcrossed romance. 

So I’ve heard a lot about David Levithan. And I’ve heard a lot about this book. And I understand why.

I picked up the audiobook of EVERY DAY to start adding a bit of enrichment to my 30-minute commute between college campuses every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It was a fantastic idea. This book was my first car-stereo victim, and I will say this–it plays well with an audio medium. I run into problems every now and then with audiobooks in that I wish I could see the story unfold in front of me in the form of pages past and pages to come, just because I’m not a very auditory person. But Every Day works pretty well. 

This story isn’t a complex one. A wakes up every day and has to learn another random person’s life. Then A moves on. In a bit of a statement, A is not a boy or a girl, A is A, and they struggle throughout the book with getting love interest Rhiannon to come to terms with this. Despite being prominent, the message didn’t take over the story, and I think that the story may have even suffered a bit for it. Because here is the thing about Every Day: Every day, it is something different

A has a lot of thoughts, as someone who has had this particular experience with life would. And they’re very interesting, very insightful thoughts. The things I believe the book is meant to be built on. The only problem with A’s interesting thoughts is that they’re sparsely placed, and when they do crop up they’re disjointed from the events going on. Prompted by them, sure. But deeply connected? Not really. A has a tendency to run off on tangents, and those tangents are quite honestly the best part of the book. 

Every Day is very well crafted. The flow of the plot, the pieces that are all put together. It works, as a whole piece. But some of the elements, like the rabbit trailing, are just a little too off from the original color. Towards the second half of the book, I found myself a little bored (and not just because of the commute drive). In my pondering as I thought about this review, it came down to this: even though the book went on and on, the choices A made never changed shape

By the second half, it was always easy to figure out what would happen, because you knew what A was going to do. A’s arc didn’t…take them anywhere. The Big Twist came and went, and A still chose what they would have in the beginning. And then, before I knew it, the end was happening, and then it was over, and I didn’t know what had just happened. And every day became “the end” and that was…all. A promise of an experimental sequal that I’m pretty sure won’t have the answers I’m looking for, and a character arc that didn’t end up anyplace but back to how A had been doing things in the beginning. 

So I hesitate to cry disappointment. I really do. Because I enjoyed myself, and absolutely it was an experimental story, which I’m always up for. But in the end, I think my gut was right: it’s not quite for me. 

So overall: 

  • Rating: 3/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Honestly, I’m not sure what kind of person would like this book. Sagittarius, probably. 
  • Lasting impression: Candlelight. So much driving. (on A’s part, not mine.) 

This Savage Song

Some books don’t even try to lie about what they are. 

This one? This book is a monster. 

  • Author: Victoria Schwab 
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books
  • Year: 2016
  • Genre vibe: Urban fantasy. That’s it. (Can I get a “hell yes” from the people in the back?) 
  • At a glance: August Flynn has no wish to be a monster, and yet that’s the role he’s given. Kate Harker doesn’t believe in anything but monsters, and if she must become one herself to fight them, then so be it. Both of them are right, and both of them are wrong. (Also, there’s monsters.)

This Savage Song

What is there to say about any given Victoria Schwab novel, for starters? They’re gigantic. Someone is going to break your heart. There’s no possible way for you–oh measly reader–to comprehend the sheer scope of the world she’s created for you. I think of any given Victoria Schwab novel and think of a sculpture: sculptures are things that I can stand and stare at for hours, enjoying in such an objective manner that I find I don’t really care if I understand them or not. 

Here’s the thing about This Savage Song: True to Schwab form, this thing is huge. The world. The story. The amount of pages. It’s gigantic, and not exactly fast paced, and not exactly magic-saturated in a very traditional Urban Fantasy kind of way. 

But here’s the other thing about This Savage Song: It doesn’t have teeth–it has claws. And like any given Victoria Schwab novel, it is very, very good at keeping them sheathed until the last moment. 

Following August and Kate isn’t exactly a chore–but it’s not very easy, either. Throughout a lot of the first half, I felt vaguely distanced from them as characters with wants and needs and goals. It didn’t bother me, strictly speaking. After all, this is Urban Fantasy straight from the hands of a goddess, so it’s not like you’re suffering. You just don’t realize what you’re missing until the latter half of the novel. Because the latter half of the novel packs more than a punch. The latter half of This Savage Song packs heat. 

There is little I like more than to see my beautiful, darling characters brought to their knees by circumstances, particularly circumstances they have gotten themselves into in one way or another. That’s pretty much all that happens at the end of this book. Me being a little late getting started, I’d already heard the cries of “FEELS” from the majority of the world. “Heh,” I thought, flipping through page after page of mob politics and awesome demon creatures, “Yeah, right.” 

You’d think I’d know by now than to underestimate the sheer depth of the Schwab Feelings. But I am a fool, and so fools fall prey unprepared. 

By the end of the book I was quite angry with myself for forgetting that this was a series, gosh darn it Linnea, and spent a good amount of time ranting to Mariesa about it. This happens a lot after I read a Schwab novel. Covered in feelings and the depth of my own foolishness while Mariesa pats me on the head and provides the release date for Conjuring of Light to calm me down. 

This Savage Song is just that–savage, and while maybe not as musical as I’d hoped, certainly crafted like a song. Urban fantasy is something that has some very strong characteristics when it’s presentented in its true form. This Savage Song is missing a couple, but not nearly enough to disqualify it from being one of the best urban fantasies out there right now. Schwab is a story goddess, and bringing her take on the art to this particular genre is something that urban fantasy readers could only have dreamed of. And yet, here we are, and look at what we have been graced with. 

No complaintes here. 

So overall: 

  • Rating: 4.5/5 stars 
  • Recommended to: Urban fantasy readers! Everywhere!! All of you!!!
  • Lasting Impression: Blood on the wall, on your hands, caked into your jeans. Water sloshing in a too-full bathtub. A desert sunset, stretch of endless road that means hope to some and condemnation to the rest.