Before I Fall


Lauren Oliver

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Before I Fall Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver was born Laura Suzanne Schechter in Queens, an outer borough of New York City, and raised primarily in Westchester County, New York—in a town she has described as being “very similar” to the town of Ridgeview depicted in Before I Fall. The child of two literature professors, Oliver developed a love of reading at a young age, and after studying literature at the University of Chicago she attended the prestigious Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing at New York University. Oliver worked in young adult publishing for years before leaving in 2009 to pursue writing full-time, and Before I Fall was published in 2010. The novel launched Oliver into YA stardom, and she followed her successful debut with over ten more novels, including the popular Delirium trilogy, a science fiction saga set in an alternate-universe United States in which love has been classified as a disease. Oliver now resides primarily in Brooklyn, NY, where she founded and continues to operate Glasstown Entertainment, a media and content company that develops innovative storytelling across several media platforms including film, television, and novels.
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Historical Context of Before I Fall

Before I Fall is a contemporary novel that leans heavily into the moment in which it takes place. While authors often limit their in-text references to popular brands, celebrities, technology, or media in order to prevent their novels from becoming dated, Oliver instead decides to use the cultural moment of the beginning of the second decade of the new millennium to provide a portrait of late-2000s teendom, and the status-conscious, label-obsessed world in which Sam Kingston and her friends live. With references to popular social media platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram and near-constant name-dropping of high-end labels such as Dooney & Bourke, Tiffany & Co., MAC, and Bebe, Oliver creates a world in which being of the moment is a kind of lifeblood. Her characters are obsessed with their self-images, and long to stamp out their teenage insecurities through a constant stream of posturing both on and off of social media. Before I Fall is a novel about larger themes of friendship, cruelty, loyalty, goodness, repentance, and faith, but it is also very much a novel about millennial concerns and how teens in a largely affluent community assert and cement their social status through two major facets of contemporary teen life—consumerism and social media.

Other Books Related to Before I Fall

Before I Fall is not the only young adult novel to deal with complicated themes of life, death, rebirth, and examining one’s life and choices carefully. If I Stay, a 2009 novel by Gayle Forman, tells the story of Mia, a teenage girl who is the only member of her family to survive a catastrophic car accident (Before I Fall also revolves largely around a fateful car accident.) Mia is left in a coma, and through an out-of-body experience she is able to watch her friends and family deal with the fallout of the accident, and must decide whether to return to her loved ones on Earth and live on without her parents and her brother, or join them in the afterlife but leave behind the chance at an earthly future. Additionally, the repetitive structure of Before I Fall mirrors the plot structure of the popular Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day, in which Phil Connors, a newscaster who is disappointed to have been assigned to cover the titular holiday alongside his beautiful coworker, must repeat the events of Groundhog Day over and over, eventually learning lessons of empathy, compassion, and self-reflection. Sam even mentions Groundhog Day when she realizes what is happening to her, and in the end it is Sam’s examination of her life choices—and her desire to subvert her past cruelties and make a difference in the lives of those around her—that delivers her from her time loop, just as Phil Connors was delivered from his through self-reflection, love, and goodwill toward others.
Key Facts about Before I Fall
  • Full Title: Before I Fall
  • When Written: Late 2000s
  • Where Written: New York, NY
  • When Published: March 2nd, 2010
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Young adult fiction; mystery; speculative fiction
  • Setting: Ridgeview, Connecticut
  • Climax: Samantha Kingston, having relived the last day of her life for six “days” in a row, trying to save herself with each reset, realizes that in order to close the time loop she has fallen into she must sacrifice herself and die in the place of her often-bullied classmate Juliet Sykes.
  • Antagonist: Lindsay Edgecombe
  • Point of View: First-person

Extra Credit for Before I Fall

Big Screen. In 2017, Before I Fall was adapted into a major motion picture, directed by indie darling Ry Russo-Young and starring teen favorites Zoey Deutch as Sam and Halston Sage as Lindsay. Though the film received mixed reviews, it was one of the highest-grossing independent films of the year, and was nominated for several Teen Choice Awards, demonstrating its success with its target audience.