Before I FallBy Lauren Oliver
Published 2010 by HarperCollins
Audiobook read by Sarah Drew
*CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD*
I don't know why I have such a hard time reviewing audiobooks lately. I guess maybe it's because there are a lot of little things I don't notice when I'm listening that I might if I was reading. However, listening adds a new dimension to the story and brings its own issues to one's experience of the book. I have to start by saying that this was a book I heard a lot about before I got around the reading it. As Oliver's debut novel, it was widely praised. It has a very interesting premise and one with great general appeal - Samantha Kingston gets to relive her last day on Earth seven times, each time trying to understand and right the wrongs. People everywhere are intrigued by death and the great unknown that comes after it, and books such as these appeal widely for that very reason. Oliver handles this premise extremely well - it is easy to believe that this is really happening to Sam. One especially interesting piece to this is that Sam doesn't initially try to make everything better. It takes her a couple days to see that her death is part of something bigger and that something bigger is what she should be focusing on in these extra chances she's been given. Sam is initially a pretty bland character - popular, pretty, mean girl, etc. - but she actually grows over the course of this experience. Oliver may have stretched this growth to its limit - sometimes I found it a bit hard to believe that Sam would fall in love with the guy whose always been there, realize how much she appreciates her family and friends, and try to make things right with an unpopular victim of her teasing all while trying to process the extraordinary circumstance she finds herself in. I think Oliver handled all these different aspects quite well, though - Sam doesn't really get anything exactly right the first time she tries to change it. I was also pretty disappointed with the end - after this miraculous week, she just dies? This was the part I felt deserved more explanation - not the fact that she got to relive her last day again and again.
In terms of the audio version itself, the reader sounds almost exactly like Mandy Moore. Now, I love Mandy Moore, but I found this a bit distracting. All I could picture was Mandy Moore in my head and I don't think that's exactly what the character was supposed to be like. Other than that, though, the reader did a very nice job.She was wonderful about using inflection to represent different characters rather than trying to totally alter her voice.It was subtle but really effective. Other than that, I wouldn't say the audio changed my experience of the book too much. Overall, I enjoyed it. It makes you think about how to live and the value and experience of life.