NPR has picked their top teen reads and I certainly want to check some of them out. Have a look at the complete list here but I have decided that there is one book on the list that I will definitely seek out next year – Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. Read what NPR writer Gayle Forman had to say about the book:
Before I Fall
By Lauren Oliver, hardcover, 480 pages, Harper Teen.
High school senior Samantha Kingston is a typical mean girl. She and her popular troika of friends cavalierly treat the lesser students like dirt because they can. Early on in the book, on Feb. 12, Sam is killed in a car accident on the way home from a party with her friends. But instead of floating away to some afterlife, Sam wakes up in her bed to find it’s the morning of Feb. 12, and she must relive the last day of her life over. With the rules upended, Sam tweaks her actions (seducing a teacher, ditching school to spend the day with her little sister, attempting to help a deeply unhappy “loser,” kissing the boy she maybe should have been kissing all along). This may sound like Groundhog Day meets Afterschool Special, but it’s actually a subtle, layered and ultimately ethical book. As Oliver widens her lens, Sam comes to understand not only the butterfly effect of kindness but also the cumulative effect of cruelty: “If you cross a line and nothing happens, the line loses meaning. … You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That’s how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth.” By the end, Sam’s (and the reader’s) understanding of herself and of her friends is so complete that the bitches from chapter one have become complex, even sympathetic girls.