Before I Fall
By Debra Bogart,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
From suicide to bullying, every tough teen topic is present.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
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 & Scariness
Suicide by gunshot; suicide attempts by walking into traffic; there is a mild fight between some teen girls at a party.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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Sam and her friends frequently use mild swear words including "s--t," "Jesus," "bitch," "pissed," and "hell."
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
Where to Read
Based on 14 parent reviews
Deals with important topics, but gets boring
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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?
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. 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 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. The suicide of a classmate is searingly explored and will be the most memorable aspect of the book.
Talk to Your Kids 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?
- Author: Lauren Oliver
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: March 1, 2010
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 470
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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