by Lauren Oliver
First sentence: “They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.”
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Samantha (Sam to her friends) Kingston has it all: popularity, three best friends, a hot boyfriend. Not bad for a senior at Thomas Jefferson High. Then one night, everything goes wrong and she’s killed in a car accident. (Trust me: that’s not a spoiler.) Then she’s given the Groundhog Day treatment (to Oliver’s credit, she tipped her hat in that direction with a mention), and forced to live the last day of her life over (seven times), until she gets it “right”.
I’ll get straight to it, since most of you have already read this one: I hated Sam. I hated her friends. I hated her boyfriend. And yet, I couldn’t put the book down. I think we’re supposed to hate Sam at the beginning (while I never really liked her, I didn’t hate her as much by the end), we’re not supposed to like the person she is or the choices she’s making. Because, honestly: she and her friends were the girls I despised in high school. They were, as another character says, bitches. (Sorry. There really is no better word.) So, that I actually could tolerate Sam (though I understood her friends by the end, I didn’t like any of them, and wondered why Sam would hang out with them) is a marvel of good writing.
There’s a lot to think about in this one, too. Choices, especially in regards to friends. As M pointed out, why Sam turned her back on the nerd she was in order to be “popular.” (That’s a crime in M’s mind. I don’t blame her.) And then the progression of learning that she went through. For the record: day five was my favorite.
Was it a comfortable, happy read? No. Was it a good one? Well, surprisingly, yes. There’s a lot to think about, and while you’ll probably hate the characters too, I bet you won’t be able to put it down either.