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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Before I Fall: The Narrator Question

This week's focus is on Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, and while the book is beloved by many, there has been some debate about the main character, Sam. She starts out pretty unaware of her flaws, and she grows to have a wider, more empathetic view of her world.

For discussion: If you've read Before I Fall, did you love Sam instantly? Did she grow on you as the story continued? Or did you never grow to like her? How did Sam as the narrator shape your view of the book?

And, in general, have you read books where the narrator was the make-or-break aspect of the title?


17 comments:

Anna said...

I might not have found her likable, but she just felt so real to me. I think that's why I enjoyed the book so much because she seemed like a real person. I could empathize with her even if I didn't relate to her.

Sara said...

I hated her at first and thought she was a raging B****. I enjoyed the learning experience that she went through during the book (although I still didn't get why it didn't occur to her earlier that drinking + driving = death).

Little Willow said...

A lot of times, narrators are do-gooders from the get-go, be they popular or not. Sam was more realistic, because she had positive and negative things about her, and she grew so much over the course of the novel.

Miss Bookiverse said...

I've enjoyed Sam as a narrator from the very beginning. Of course she is a little shallow and rather selfish, also mean, at the beginning but in a book I found that entertaining. I liked the whole girly-thing the clique had going on. Later in the book she grew on me even more because she got more depth and rethought her actions.

Jackie Parker said...

I *hated* her at first, then I realized somewhere in the third chapter that I didn't anymore, and I became entirely enchanted by the whole book.

Melissa Walker said...

Jackie took the words right out of my mouth. ENCHANTING to fall for someone you initially dislike. It makes the book stronger, I think.

Lisa_Gibson said...

I grew to like her some, but didn't even really love this book. I thought it didn't work for me until about page 220 (which is a loooonnnggg way). I just think it was tough to keep pushing on through when I didn't really connect with her.
Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

Priya said...

I hated Sam at the beginning - I thought she was mean and annoying and selfish and I couldn't relate to her at all. Her character made me so uncomfortable that I actually put down the book.

I picked it up again after a few weeks and skipped ahead to the middle. Once I started reading from there, I began to like Sam much better.

For me, narrators can really affect the way I think about a book. I might love a story, but end up disliking the book because the narrator was annoying.

elfarmy17 said...

I despised her throughout most of the book, and while she was a bit more likable towards the end, her likability felt fake. Like she thought she was a better person, but wasn't. She's the reason I didn't like the book. It could have been much the same story, if only the main character was different.

Melissa Walker said...

I love this discussion! Everyone reacts so differently--thanks for sharing, guys!

Lorie Ann Grover said...

I didn't like her at the start. She was selfish and annoying. I came to respect her by the end. What a journey!

Melissa Walker said...

Ooh, I also want to add that with some books, I find the narrator is the REASON the book works at all! Claire Zulkey's AN OFF YEAR is a favorite of mine, and it's ALL due to the main character, who sits around in slippers for most of the book (great slippers, but still!) That could get boring, but it sooo doesn't. Great book!

Gillian said...

It has been a while since I read this novel, so I don't quite remember when I started liking Sam; I think it may have been when she realized just how much she cared about her younger sister. I enjoyed the fact that her views on her friends changed a lot over the course of the novel, too. But even as she realized they were not perfect, and that they had significant problems, she still loved them. I admired her for that.

Micol Ostow said...

Obviously, Sam's not really intended to be likable at the beginning of the book, and what drew me in was that she *knew,* intrinsically, that she wasn't a very nice person, but was obviously trapped in this facade she'd created of herself as a typical "mean girl." And as much as that doesn't necessary make her sympathetic, I really felt for her, and how empty and insecure she must have been to feel so much pressure to conform. And I appreciated that she was working so hard to evolve. I thought Lauren did an incredible job with an unsympathetic character, making her very compelling.

Lorie Ann Grover said...

I agree with this Gillian:

But even as she realized they were not perfect, and that they had significant problems, she still loved them. I admired her for that.

Me, too!

And Micol:

I thought Lauren did an incredible job with an unsympathetic character, making her very compelling.

Absolutely!

bj neary said...

I didn't like Sam at first. I thought she was self-involved and too dependent on her friends. I really liked the way she came back 7 times, because each time, I understood her a little better and realized her depth as a person. I really enjoyed her as a child, didn't like her when she was so self-invloved but her growth as a nice girl who found the good in most of what she disdained was so redemptive and real.

Audrey (holes In My brain) said...

i was ambivalent towards sam for most of the novel, but she did grow on me towards the end :) i couldnt' stand her friends though! they made me upset... haha
for these questionable narrators, i think its a fine line. you can't have them too unsympathetic but overtly so doesn't help them either.. i think oliver did a great job with sam tbh :)