We kicked off our Virtual YA Book Club with Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver as our September selection. Here’s the general premise: Samantha Kingston, one of Thomas Jefferson High School’s most popular girls, dies on Friday, February 12. But she gets the chance to relive her last day on earth—seven times. In one week, she goes back to the same day and attempts to change the course of the day and unravel the mystery of her death.
At first, Samantha is a tough protagonist to like. After all, she’s a mean girl. She isn’t nice to her parents or little sister. She sneers at pretty much everyone at school who isn’t one of her best friends or her boyfriend. But as the chapters went on and Samantha tries to change what she’s done and what’s happening to other people, then I was hooked. As we learned more about the inner worlds of these mean girls—Lindsay Edgecombe, in particular—we realize who they really are outside of their school personas. I also loved her relationship with Kent. It was one of the most honest, sweet relationships of the book for me. Overall, I thought Before I Fall was beautifully written and so engaging. And for me, it was the first time I was reading a teen story from the perspective of a mean girl.
Now let’s chat about this book! Here are some discussion questions to kick it off. Please answer in the comments. Feel free to add more questions.
1) What do you think of Samantha’s development as a character from beginning to end? How do you think she changed?
2) Even though you know that she’s going to die at the end of each chapter, Lauren Oliver manages to hook you to find out exactly how things will be different. In chapter one, we get to see the day as it happens, then we see the variations. What is one of your favorite chapters/days and why?
3) What did you think of the other female characters in book besides Samantha—such as Lindsay, Juliet Skyes, Anna Cartullo, or even Izzy? In contrast, what did you think of the male characters like Kent McFuller, Mr. Daimler, and Rob?
4) Everything happens on Cupid Day, again and again. What do you think is the significance of Samantha’s last day as a teen girl landing on (almost) Valentine’s Day?
5) The last few chapters are so gripping, especially the last chapter when you know that this is the end for Samantha. You also know what’s going to happen, but there’s a bittersweet quality to each of the moments she spends with her family and friends. Let’s talk about a few key points of dialogue and prose. When Sam says at the end to Juliet, “It’s never too late,” I feel like it sums up the whole book. The epilogue of the book is one of my favorite moments, especially when Sam says, “And kissing Kent, because that’s when I realized that time doesn’t matter. That’s when I realized that certain moments go on forever. Even after they’re over they still go on, even after you’re dead and buried.” There’s something hauntingly beautiful and the same time makes me feel OK that Samantha Kingston is finally dead. What are some of your favorite moments of the book?