By Carly Newton

Sam is popular, has the perfect boyfriend and the seemingly perfect life. Then she dies. The next day starts with confusion. As her memories from the previous day start to occur again, Sam realizes she is reliving the same day as before, the day she dies.

Lauren Oliver’s novel, “Before I Fall,” focuses on 17-year-old Samantha Kingston. The novel is written from Sam’s perspective as she relives the last day of her life seven times.

“Before I Fall” begins with Sam and her friends driving to school. It’s Feb. 12, known as Cupid Day at Thomas Jefferson High School, a day where students buy a rose to send to someone else. Sam and her popular friends―Lindsay, Elody and Ally―have the whole day planned. The girls begin with guessing the number of roses they think they’ll receive. At Thomas Jefferson High, popularity is determined by the number of roses someone receives on Cupid Day. Sam said she’ll be happy with fifteen.

When Sam and her friends were at lunch, the school outcast Juliet Sykes, or “psycho’’ as they nicknamed her, walked into the cafeteria. She was immediately made fun of by Sam and her friend group. Sam had made the decision to send a rose to Juliet, but she didn’t do it as a kind gesture. It was meant to embarrass her. The girls previously discovered that Juliet had never received a rose and made it a yearly tradition to send her one. It included a note that read, “Maybe next year, but probably not.”

“Before I Fall,” is centered around the effects that long-term bullying can have on a young person. The character of Juliet Sykes had been the target of Sam and her friend group’s insults for years up to this point. It began in fifth grade. Lindsay, who was too embarrassed to admit she wet the bed, blamed it on Juliet, her best friend at the time. From this point forward, Juliet became an easy target to bully.

Bullying is an issue that is still prevalent in high schools across the nation. Lauren Oliver does a great job of making the reader feel empathy for Juliet and disdain for Sam early on in the novel.

It’s obvious from the start that Sam and her friends have the stereotypical “we’re better than you” attitude. They are the “popular girls” who are portrayed in other forms of pop culture.

Sam is self-absorbed and prioritizes her popularity, friends and boyfriend over her grades and family.

The rest of Cupid Day is spent anticipating a huge party, hosted by Kent Fuller, a student at their high school who had a crush on Sam. The party is central to the plot of the story since Sam nervously planned to lose her virginity to her boyfriend, Rob.

She seems to be having second thoughts when she arrives and is more concerned with Kent talking to another girl.

When Juliet Sykes shows up to the party, Sam is taken off-guard. To their surprise and dismay, Juliet only came to insult Sam and her friends. The situation escalated quickly, and Juliet is shoved from one person to the next. Everyone at the party started calling her a psycho, alcohol was dumped over her head, and she was pushed into a bookshelf by Sam. All of these events cause Juliet to run out of the room.

Not long after, Sam and her friends decided to leave the party without telling Rob. It began to rain steadily, and Lindsay drove faster than normal. A white image resembling Juliet appeared on the road suddenly. The crash happened fast.

Sam awoke the next day and realized that it was still Feb. 12. Confused, Sam soon understood that the events of the previous day were repeating themselves. She then set out to figure out why it was occurring and how to end it.

As Sam begins to relive each day over and over again, she has the opportunity to change. She experiments with her decisions in her attempt to stop her death. Over the course of the next seven days, she makes out with her math teacher, breaks up with Rob, falls in love with Kent Fuller and tries to figure out the mysterious Juliet Sykes.

In this process, Sam learns things about her friends she never knew, the effects that bullying can have on someone and comes to terms with the consequences of her actions.

By the end of “Before I Fall,” Samantha Kingston’s character development is a thing of beauty. This book is perfect for anyone looking for a light-hearted story. It will allow readers to think twice about their actions and influence a more positive outlook for themselves and others in their lives.

Email Carly Newton at cp@cardinalpointonline.com