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Before I Fall

Before I Fall - Lauren Oliver The author is young, not far from being a teen herself which probably accounts for her acute recall of the kind of behavior she explores in her book. She does it so well that the pages turn themselves. I am a senior citizen and my high school days came flooding back with memories of the "mean" girls in my school, although "mean" and/or popular girls then, were vastly different from their counterparts today. Today, the bullying behavior is more apparent, at even younger ages, for boys and girls. Grade school is their training camp.
You will not like the characters but you will "remember" them. I hope you don't identify with them! The book is about a popular teen who relives the last day of her life for seven days, each day seeing different versions of it, each day changing her behavior bit by bit, sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. You watch Samantha Kingston's evolution, always hoping that she will get a second chance at life. Whether or not she does, is for you to discover, however. It would be a real spoiler if I told you now.
Although, it hasn't always been this way, she is now part of a popular circle of friends, rounded out by Elody, Ally and Lindsay. Lindsay is the leader of the pack. These popular girls abuse other girls, and boys, whom they deem unfit for their company, sometimes for no reason other than it is "fun". They never think of the pain they cause their victims. They have boyfriends, experiment in sex, alcohol, and drugs and apparently have little supervision at home or at school. They are the "cool" ones everyone aspires to be, and even their parents are proud of their status, often overlooking obvious signs of cruel behavior and even accepting it.
The book was originally published as a YA (I read the ARC) but according to the author, the jacket will not say teen when it is published in its final version. I think that is a good choice because this book transcends all age levels. A young adult, young mom, mom of a teenager or grandmom will be equally drawn into it because, although it is about a teenager, we have all been or will be teenagers at some point!
I really recommend this book. The book held my interest all along, right to the last page, and as I read, I thought the message was about repentance and redemption, responsibility and maturity. I thought it would inspire young teens to behave better and be more healthy emotionally and physically.
Samantha's final words make me wonder, however, if my perception was correct. I hope that the message I got, is the message that will be received by teens because the opposite message would have disastrous results.