readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Monday, November 1, 2010

NOVEMBER Featured Title: BEFORE I FALL, by Lauren Oliver

Hello! Welcome to November at readergirlz!

The new month brings with it a new format for all of our amazing featured titles; with this new approach, we'll be able to spotlight more books than ever. So please help me celebrate our first title - which was one of my absolute favorites of last year: BEFORE I FALL, by Lauren Oliver!

Here's what School Library Journal had to say about this breathtaking book: 

Samantha Kingston has worked her way up the popularity ladder; now a senior, she and her three best friends rule their school. On Cupid Day, Sam expects to receive Valentine roses, to party with her friends, and to finally (maybe) have sex with her equally popular boyfriend. The last thing she expects is that she will die, but in the final moments of her life, as she hears "a horrible, screeching sound—metal on metal, glass shattering, a car folding in two," everything turns to nothing. Only, it is not the end for Sam. She wakes up to start the same day over again, and again; in fact, she relives it seven times....Moving and cathartic.

Just reading the book description gives me the chills! 
Lauren was kind enough to offer up some thoughts on this month's theme, "resilience." Here's Lauren: 

Hey hey! Lauren Oliver here, author of BEFORE I FALL and the forthcoming DELIRIUM. I’m so psyched to be featured on the awesomeness that is readergirlz. I’m particularly honored to have been selected to participate during a month in which resilience is being celebrated. Resilience—the ability to recover from being wounded, to pick yourself up after stumbling, and to strive constantly for betterment and happiness, no matter how often you are confronted by difficulty and pain—is such a critical quality to cultivate, both in a general Life-Sense and, in particular, for a writer.

Writers, of course, need to be tremendously resilient. So much of the life of a writer is unfortunately about rejection and frustration. Almost every writer can tell you stories about failed novel attempts (I, for example, am now on my FOURTH ATTEMPT to write a particular middle-grade that keeps devolving into nonsense at about word 15,000); and rejected manuscripts; and unhelpful or critical teachers, peers, and sometimes parents. There is the infamous (perhaps apocryphal) story of the Harry Potter books, which were allegedly rejected some insane quantity of times before finding a home and changing the landscape of children’s books forever.

You must be resilient as a writer, because as a writer, you will be confronted every day with at least five or six excellent reasons to give up.

More specifically, the theme of resilience plays a big part in Before I Fall. One of the messages I most wanted to convey in my first novel, particularly in the character of Juliet and her developing relationship with Sam, is that it’s important never to give up: not on other people, and certainly not on yourself. No matter how much bleakness and difficulty there is in your life or in the world you are confronting, change is possible, hope is out there, and help will come. As Sam discovers in the book, it is never too late.

So well-put, Lauren, and definitely something I personally responded to when reading BEFORE I FALL. And I can't wait for DELIRIUM!

I love, too, that Lauren mentions resilience as it pertains to the writer's life - I'm sure most of us writer-types would agree that without resilience, very few books would ever see the light of day!

Thanks for joining us, Lauren! And now, we want to hear from you - how has resilience helped you in your life? Maybe like Sam, you've reached out to a friend even after a fight or fallout that seemed hopeless? Or maybe it's simply a case of pursuing your passion in the face of lousy odds, heavy competition, or the fear of rejection? Resilience is what keeps us moving forward!


Lorie Ann Grover said...

This was one of my very top favorite books, too, Micol. Thank you, Lauren, for this complex, layered story full of meaning and truth. I was wowed.

I appreciate Lauren's thoughts on resilience as well. I tell you. Books don't see the light of day without a resilient author pounding it out day after day. Yep.

I think ballet instilled resilience in me. One plie after another for ten years tends to build resilience.

What built it in you?

I so love the ending of BEFORE I FALL. Sam is a beautiful heroine.

Micol Ostow said...

The ending is fantastic. But then, so are the beginning, and the middle!

Ella Preuss said...

I agree with Lorie, the ending is amazing, and BIF will forever be one of my favourite books. (Although I had a hard time getting into it.)

I'm not sure if I have that much resilience in me. I'm definitely not the most patient person sometimes.
But I've found that I can finish something if I force myself to. (LOL)

Little Willow said...

Before I Fall is an absolutely amazing book that explores the idea of time loops (one of my favorite concepts) with such depth of feeling and no-holds-barred realism that there's absolutely no way a reader can walk away from this book unchanged.

I was born resilient. I could very easily not have survived, but I did. And I live: I appreciate every day and every living thing, I find value in little things and strength in trials, and I refuse to let naysayers get me down, ever.

elfarmy17 said...

Okay, I really didn't like BIF. I wish I had, but I didn't. The narrator annoyed the heck out of me.
I hope the discussion here on readergirlz will bring the book into a new light for me.

Melissa Walker said...

I thought that Sam in BEFORE I FALL grew on the reader (well, me anyway) in such a fantastic way -- it almost let the reader be more involved than usual, because at first, Sam didn't have us in the palm of her hand. It wasn't instant love.

Anyway, on resilience: For me, it comes from facing the scary. Each time I've faced something that frightened me (moving to a new town in 4th grade, starting high school, going away for college and then a junior year abroad, moving to NYC...), I've found that surviving it has made me more capable of facing the next "scary" thing.

My father died a few years ago, and that was the scariest thing I could ever have imagined in the entire world. And on the other side: Sadness, but also Sweet Resilience. (Which definitely, yes, helps with the writing rejection too!)

Micol Ostow said...

Elfarmy17: to me, what was interesting about Sam was that she does start out fairly unlikeable. She seems pretty aware of that, too, and I'd venture that she doesn't like herself that much, either. But watching her character evolve is one of the great payoffs of the book.

Melissa: Your take on resilience makes me teary! For myself, I think it's the strength I try to find to reframe negative things into positive. I work really hard to try and see things as blessings or at the very least, learning experiences, no matter how painful. Rejections are a perfect example of that.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't happen to believe that "change is possible, hope is out there, and help will come. As Sam discovers in the book, it is never too late." Nevertheless, I loved the book (it's one of the few reviews I've ever done in which I actually gushed!), and would characterize it as having a very spiritual, almost religious message.

Little Willow said...

My friend Tate is currently reading this title. I can't wait until she finishes it. She promises she will join our discussion when she's done with the book! :)

Melissa Walker said...

I also would like to add: That DELIRIUM cover is TO. DIE. FOR.

(Martha, forgive me for ending on a preposition!)

Lorie Ann Grover said...

I love the honesty of our rgz. Spot on! (And our freedom to end with prepositions.)

Unknown said...

I have read many books about people dying, and having to replay their life over and over, but this one is the best so far. this book shows how you can change into a better person if you really believe in yourself.
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Unknown said...

Before I Fall is a haunting and beautiful book. It will float around at the back of your mind long after you've read it.


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Unknown said...

I would recommend it to anyone (actually i already did recommend it to my friends), even though Samantha is a teenager you don't have to be one to appreciate the book and the meaning behind it.

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