Before I Fall Summary and Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 30-page guide for “Before I Fall” by Lauren Oliver includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 7 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like Bullying vs. Kindness and Redemption.
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver is a young adult novel about redemption, written in 2010. Following her death in a car accident, high school senior Sam Kingston wakes the next morning to find that she’s reliving the same day—February 12, or Cupid Day. She juggles the complexities of bullying, blossoming sexuality, self-confidence, and self-sacrifice after reliving the same day seven times. Through this experience, she reconnects with her family and friends, but mostly with herself, and finds a way to accept her death and pass into the afterlife peacefully, knowing that she’s made a positive impact on the world she leaves behind.
At the start of the novel, Sam is shallow and mean. She thinks she can get away with anything because of her popularity and doesn’t believe consequences apply to her. But that false confidence is shattered when she dies in a car crash. She then awakens to discover she has to relive the day she died. The first time she relives that day, Sam takes steps to try to ensure she’s not in the car that night, but when she learns that her survival led to someone else’s suicide, she begins to see that she can’t carry the guilt of that consequence.
From there, she attempts to save the other girl who commits suicide. Initially, Sam’s motivations are entirely self-serving. She only wants to save Juliet to preserve her own life. However, she learns that self-sacrifice is the key to her redemption, which is triggered by the kindness exhibited by Kent, a boy she was friends with growing up who is in love with her, but to whom she’d been mean since middle school.
This journey of transformation also helps Sam see her family and friends in a new, more positive light. She also finds self-confidence outside her sexuality, though this takes effort. On one relived day, she seduces her teacher, and on another, her boyfriend Rob.
In addition to redemption, this novel also explores bullying versus kindness and fate versus free will. By the seventh and final time she relives the same day, Sam decides to give her life to save Juliet’s, thereby giving her life a positive meaning. Before the crash, Sam got drunk and partied just to escape boredom and was mean to her peers to survive what she considered to be an “every (wo)man for herself” environment. But by the time her transformation is complete, Sam is thinking about everyone else she loves before herself and putting their needs first. Because of this, she’s able to come to terms with the fact that her life is a short one. She decides that life isn’t about how much time you have, but how you use it.