Before I Fall

 
From suicide to bullying, every tough teen topic is present.

What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

Strong storyline about the devastating effects of bullying, how a suicide impacts everyone, that negative social behavior can have far-reaching consequences, and that teens can change the way they treat one another.

Positive role models

By the end of the story Sam acknowledges that she wants to be remembered well when she dies and works to correct some her more damaging actions. Whether she changes her actions for altruistic reasons is never fully clear, but she does attempt to change. Her friend Kent is a strongly positive character who supports and accepts her. Most of the adult characters are negative role models, either teachers with bad behavior or parents who neglect or enable their kids to drink.

Violence

Suicide by gunshot; suicide attempts by walking into traffic; there is a mild fight between some teen girls at a party.

Sex

Sam, the main character, has decided to have sex with her boyfriend of a few months to "get it over with"; some frank discussions with her best friends about what it will be like, if it will be painful, if she should be in love;  her friends give her condoms to use for her first time; two of her three best friends are no longer virgins. Sam seduces one of her teachers but stops after kissing and being fondled by him; some kissing between Sam and another boy. Two married teachers are observed making out in a locked room.

Language

Sam and her friends frequently use mild swear words including "s--t," "Jesus," "bitch," "pissed," and  "hell."

Consumerism

Frequent naming of brands: Victoria's Secret, Steve Madden, iPod, BMS, Body Shop, etc.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Sam and her friends drink frequently and take vodka with them to most events; Sam gets drunk to help her go through with sex for the first time; they attend frequent keggers and it's acknowledged that there is nothing to do at their high school besides drink; her boyfriend gets so drunk he passes out. One girl smokes pot in a school restroom. Sam's best friend Lindsay smokes cigarettes constantly.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the hook of this popular teen novel is that the main character discovers she's dead after a car accident and that she can relive and study the 24 hours before in detail. Just like the movie Groundhog Day, she indulges in some consequence-free behaviors for the fun of it -- drinking, hooking up with a teacher -- and must go from a very unpleasant person (popular "It" girl everyone secretly hates) to a better person by the end. Teens drink heavily in this novel, the main character contemplates having sex with her boyfriend ("to get it over with") at length, and heavy issues like bullying, suicide, bulimia, anorexia, and abuse are graphically uncovered throughout the story.

What's the story?

Samantha and her three best friends are the "It" girls at Thomas Jefferson High School. It’s Cupid Day of their senior year, but more importantly, it’s the day Samantha has decided to lose her virginity with her boyfriend, Rob. After a party that night, a fatal car accident interrupts Sam’s plans. It takes a day or two of reliving those same 24 hours before Sam realizes she must be dead, or in limbo of some kind; she notices that she can alter her actions and their repercussions -- but can she save her own life?

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Watching one's self, or reliving death, is not a new concept in young adult literature, and here the tough issues inherent in the topic are bandied about as often as teens talk keggers and designer duds. But the author does do a nice job of exploring the decision to lose one's virginity; and also discovering that all actions have consequences -- although Sam and her friends might be a little old to be making that particular discovery.

The treatment of bullying and its impact, the motivations behind the bullying, and the reasons other kids tacitly accept it is one topic that can't be portrayed too often in books for teens and Oliver gives it a great twist by not trying to make Sam and her friends likable from the start. Her perspective makes the book more realistic and immediate, and makes Sam's ultimate bid for redemption stronger and sadder. Oliver vividly draws a picture of the devastating damage done by bullying, while exploring the ease with which some teens turn a blind eye to such behavior.The suicide of a classmate is searingly explored and will be the most memorable aspect of the book.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about bullying and the perception that these days, more girls bully than boys. Have you observed that at your school? How is

  • bullying treated by your friends? Have you been bullied?

  • What advice would you give someone who has been bullied? What do you think your favorite teacher would do if you went to them about

  • being bullied?

  • Does verbal abuse or taunting do as much damage as physical bullying, or being beat up, would do?

  • What was the most important thing that Sam learned?

  • Would you have tried to change something other than Sam if you had the chance to? If you knew it was your last day to live, what would you choose to do?

Book details

Author:Lauren Oliver
Genre:Contemporary Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperTeen
Publication date:March 1, 2010
Number of pages:470
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Read aloud:14
Read alone:14

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Kid, 12 years old October 15, 2010
age 13+
 

AMAZING Book!! :D

I loved this book!!!!! It had a lot of sexual things and teen drinking in it. But I thought it had a great message about how bullying can really affect people in horrible ways. Kids who are 12 and older can understand that this is part of life. It kept me turning page after page! This si an awesome book!!!!!!!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bySlipperyQ June 8, 2011
age 12+
 

Fearless

This book is one I hold close to my heart, for sure. And there's a good, personal reason for that- there's one big part of this book people look over. Yes, it's a poignant stand against bullying. But since I was very, young, I have feared to die. At the begining of the book, so did Samantha. After her adventure, and finds her redemption in saving the life of Juliet Sykes, she dies. But her description of death doesn't scare me. In fact, it helps quell my fear. She says that people say you watch your whole life happen again before you die, but she sees only her greatest hits. She says that, "That's when I realized that time doesn't matter, because some moments go on forever. Even after they're over, even after you're dead and buried, those moments are lasting still, on and on, into infinity." She also says that dying is a "lifting feeling, like laughing." She treats death as a beautiful thing, as if you just spend the rest of forever reliving the best moments of your life. Even though it has big, whimsical chunks, it's that part of it that has stuck with me the most- because when I'm scared, it's comforting to think that maybe I can find the salvation that Oliver expresses at the end of her book.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byKatherineLovesJake July 9, 2010
age 12+
 

Loved It To Pieces

LOVE IT! i read this when i was 12. it does have a lot of sexual content, and i feel that once you turn 12 or 13 sex is not something to laugh at. girls mature quickly. i enjoyed this book and after reading it i felt more educated in what can really happen to you once you hit high school.and the launguage is nothing i havent heard or used before.its one of my fave books!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models

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