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Literature / Before I Fall

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Before I Fall is a book by Lauren Oliver about Samantha Kingston, who is pretty, popular, has the best friends in the world and an amazing boyfriend. It seems that Friday, February 12, is going to be just another normal day, with school, friends, and partying. However, it ends with a horrible car crash that kills Sam and goodness-knows who else.

But instead of being sent to the Pearly Gates or thrust down into the fiery pits of Hades, Sam wakes up, in her bed, the morning of February 12. No one but her has any idea that she died the day before. Sam relives the same day for a week, learning more about the effects of her actions and realizing she didn't know as much about anything, including her self, friends, and schoolmates, than she thought she knew. A well received book that refuses to let characters fall into teen stereotypes, and is written by somebody who clearly understands actual teens.


Described as a mix of Groundhog Day and Mean Girls.

A movie adaption was released in March 2017. For tropes about that version see Before I Fall.

The book provides examples of:

  • A-Cup Angst: Sam isn't totally flat, but she isn't happy with her chest size in the book, especially compared to Ally.
  • Adults Are Useless: The teachers never seem to call the girls (especially Lindsay) out for their cruel behavior.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: Sam used to be a passionate horseback rider before Lindsay et al. shamed it out of her.
  • Alpha Bitch: Sam and her friends, Lindsay, Ally and Elody; although Lindsay is obviously their leader. Sam says it herself: "Lindsay gets the final say on all our decisions."
  • Ambiguously Bi: Anna Cartullo is shown to clearly like boys but also carries a lighter in the shape of a naked woman's torso.
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  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Izzy. Not really how Sam feels. She really and truly loves her little sister.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Sam does care about her family, she just doesn't show it very often.
    • Kick the Dog moments aside, Lindsay genuinely does care about her friends and it's implied her bitchiness is a cover up for how she's really feeling.
  • The Beard: In-Universe Elody thinks Bridget's dating of Alex Liment is this and her good girl act is a cover for her true orientation. She provides no evidence of this and what little we see of Bridget shows she was very upset to lose her boyfriend.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Sam and Kent have two examples here on Day 6 and Day 7. Although compared to one another, Day 7 was bigger.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ultimately, Sam manages to save Juliet... but only by sacrificing herself in the process.
  • Book Dumb: Rob thinks "delinquent" is a big word.
    • Implied with Ally, who comments "SAT-word alert!" when Lindsay says "morbid".
  • Broken Bird: Poor, poor Juliet. She was best friends with Lindsey and took the blame for something Lindsey did and got made fun of by practically the entire school peer group all the way through high school.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Juliet goes to Kent's party with the intention of "calling the bitches out".
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Elody.
  • Character Development: Sam grows through the course of her days.
  • Charm Person: Lindsay is described as being very charismatic: in Sam's words, "Being with her is like being drunk".
  • Childhood Friend Romance: With Sam and Kent, but not at first.
  • Childhood Marriage Promise: Sam and Kent pretended to get married when they were six, leading to her first kiss.
  • Cool Big Sis: Sam spends one of her loops showing Izzy a favorite childhood haunt, giving her advice, and generally showing her all the time and affection she never gave her in real life. It's condensed in the movie, but she still spends one of her loops with Izzy.
    • It's implied Juliet is this to her sister Marian.
  • Cool Loser: Kent McFuller, who wears a bowler hat, draws cartoons and doesn't give a hoot what anyone thinks. Sam's little sister Izzy is implied to be growing into this as well.
  • Cry Cute: During a heated argument in one of the time loops, Sam breaks down in front of Kent, invoking this trope and leading him to tell her, "I was just going to say your hair looks beautiful down."
  • The Cutie: Izzy is one.
    • Juliet's sister
  • Deadpan Snarker: Sam and Anna Cartullo.
  • The Ditz: Implied with Ally and Elody.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sam and her friends did this to Juliet Sykes.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Lindsay, especially when drunk.
  • Dysfunctional Family: HEAVILY implied with Lindsay stemming from a very bad divorce when she was young.
    • There's something a about Juliet's mother, and while we don't see her father, Sam comments that he sounds like an angry, barking dog.
    • Sam makes mention they can't ever hang out at Elody's house because of their alcoholic issues.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Invoked in one book loop with a rude cashier called Irma refuses to let Sam buy expensive clothes with her mom's stolen credit card. When Sam gives her fake I.D, she blurts out the S stands for Severus. The Pugs then add, "I'm sure you understand. It's Irma, right?" and "Did people ever call you Worma when you were little? Or Squirma?"
  • Establishing Character Moment: Lindsay gets hers in the prologue of the book when she announces in front of the whole gym class she won't have a girl called Vicki on her team because, "She's too fat. You could hit her with your eyes closed." and everyone laughs, even though the girl isn't even actuallly fat.
  • Extreme Doormat: Elody. Even when Sam calls Lindsay out for being so horrible to her behind her back, she still sides with Lindsay over Sam, and it's implied the main reason is fear, and she gets called a "pushover" several times. She also seems to be the recurring Butt-Monkey out of the four girls (though Sam and Ally do get their share) and her friend with benefits Steve doesn't pay her much attention.
    • Juliet also, at least before her "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the main four, as she never tried standing up for herself when everyone made fun of her, although whether it was out of loyalty to Lindsay isn't totally clear. As Juliet herself says, "I thought it would pass."
  • Foregone Conclusion: Sam dies at least once.
  • Former Friend of Alpha Bitch: Sam and Kent used to be friends as children; so did Lindsay and Juliet.
  • Foreshadowing: Plenty, one of the most obvious examples being The school is nicknamed "Suicide High" in the book.
  • Freaky Is Cool: Kent is easily one of the most likable, down-to-earth characters.
  • Fridge Horror: In-universe, when Sam wonders how the laughing, careless people around her will react to her death.
  • Gay Bravado: "Whoa, lesboing out much?" ... "Maybe."
  • Get Out!: In the fourth loop, Sam bursts out with a fierce "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Lindsay on the way to school. Lindsay evicts her from the car, forcing her to walk to school in a thin jacket. In February.
  • Good Bad Girl: Anna Cartullo in the book.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Sam has no problem with smokers (including Lindsay), but their teacher Ms. Winters in the book is on a personal vendetta to ban smoking at their school ever since her (Ms. Winters') mother died of a nicotine-related lung disease.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Of course.
  • Happily Married: Sam's parents.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Most of the girls we meet in this book are down for parties and tossing back lots of alcohol.
  • Heroic BSoD: Although "hero" may be generous, Sam has a couple of breakdowns over the course of the story, especially when One night when Sam doesn't reach Juliet in time, Juliet and Elody die.
    • During an argument with Kent, Sam goes off on a rant about how screwed up things are (of course, referring to her Groundhog Day predicament) and blurts out, "I don't think I can be fixed."
  • Heroic Sacrifice
  • Hidden Depths: Everyone - that's part of the message. Two unpleasant teachers turn out to be secret lovers. Ally is a talented chef in spite of her weight concerns. Elody's mother is an alcoholic. The school's "bad girl", Anna Cartullo, is a fan of the surrealist artist MC Escher. Lindsay used to be friends with Juliet, until she blamed Juliet for wetting the sleeping bag at summer camp when it was actually Lindsay's own doing. The reason she bullied Juliet afterwards was either to stop her from telling, or to challenge her to stand up for herself - it's never quite clear which. Juliet has a loving family, including a younger sister just like Sam.
  • High School: Thomas Jefferson High School, also known in-universe as "Suicide High".
  • Hot Teacher: Sam's overly flirtatious math teacher, Mr. Daimler.
    • Somewhat inverted when he actually takes it further in the book when Sam flirts with him when they're alone and she realises he's not as cool as she thought. She says to him later, "If you had a real girlfriend, you wouldn't be hitting on highschool girls."
  • Informed Attribute: Elody is described as "the nicest" of the four, but we don't see much of it except in the things she doesn't do, i. e. protest when Lindsay makes fun of her, or ignore her boyfriend's neglect.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Juliet, since Sam pushed her out of the way.
  • Ironic Echo: "I thought it would pass." Spoken first by Juliet, and later by Lindsay when reacting to the news of her former friend's suicide.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Well, wouldn't you in that situation?
  • Jerkass: There are a few, but most notable Lindsay, (although she at the very least has a Freudian Excuse), Sam's boyfriend Rob and Alex Liment, who is cheating on his girlfriend Bridget with Anna Cartullo and everyone (except Bridget) knows about it.
    • Rob gets special mention for telling Sam when she breaks up with him, "I should have screwed Gabby Hayes when she offered." and publicly embarrassing her the first time she ever asked him out, just because he was more popular then her.
  • Jerk Jock: Sam's boyfriend, Rob, a lacrosse player.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Kent is somewhat of a gender-flipped version for Sam.
  • Meaningful Name: The suicidal Ophelia is called Juliet.
  • Motor Mouth: Kent when he's nervous.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Sam's immediate reaction with she inadvertently calls Elody an alcoholic in the book. The girls (barring Lindsay) have this reaction when they hear about Juliet's suicide.
  • Naïve Everygirl: Sam makes a point of how ordinary she is, though she's a bit less good-natured than most examples.
  • Never My Fault: Lindsay. During the time loop where Sam skips Kent's party and the girls stay at Ally's house, Juliet shoots herself. Lindsay's reaction is, "She's better off this way." Even Elody and Ally think this is going too far and pointedly sleep in a different room. Sam herself says to Lindsay, "You were her best friend."
  • The Nicknamer: Lindsay, and most of her creations are quite vicious: Juliet "Psycho" Sykes, Ben "Fart-sky", "The Turkey Jerk", Ms. Winters "The Nicotine Nazi", etc. She even calls a trio of girls who are supposed to be friends of theirs "The Pugs" (pretty far away, ugly up-close.)
    • Even her friends aren't always immune - Sam says in the book when Lindsay's in a bad mood she calls her "Samuel", referencing her less-then-ample bust.
    • Rob makes up several nicknames for Sam, like "Slammer", "Sammo", "Slugger", etc.
  • Not So Different: Sam and Juliet. Lindsay used to bully Sam the same way she does Juliet, spreading the rhyme, "What's red and white and weird all over? Sam Kingston!" to mock her skin condition the same way she called Juliet "Mellow Yellow." Of course, Sam only discovers this during one of the loops, and before that she comments that the fact Lindsay used to bully her is one of the things they never talk about.
    • Anna Cartullo and Elody also qualify, as both of them are generally a lot kinder than people think but both of them are branded as "sluts".
  • No Sparks: Sam is secretly disgusted by Rob's sloppy kissing technique in the book.
  • Oddball in the Series: Day Four is this for Sam's series of days. In it she does things that before this Sam would never have thought of. Dressing super revealing, insulting her best friends, flirting and making out with her teacher, tossing out her Cupid Day roses, hanging out with Anna Cartullo, hanging out with the Pugs, stealing her mom's credit card for a shopping spree, etc
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Elody's boyfriend Steve Dough is almost always called "Muffin" in the book.
    • Izzy is only ever called Elizabeth once.
  • Only One Name: Despite the fact that over a dozen mostly irrelevant background character get named by Sam with their first and surnames, Elody's last name is nowhere to be found in the book.
  • The Ophelia: Juliet, called "The Psycho", who never speaks, hides behind her hair, and is described drifting along hallways "like a dandelion seed".
  • Panty Shot: During her more wild day in calculus Sam worries she's giving the whole class this as she sits on Mr. Daimler's desk to seduce him. Later after class where it goes even further she knows her skirt is too far up for her not to be giving this trope.
  • Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: Sam used to be a loser and Lindsay used to pick on her and Rob humiliated her when she confessed she liked him because she was "uncool". When Lindsay befriended her, though, Sam abandoned her "nerdy" hobbies to fit in with her, and as such becomes something of an Alpha Bitch herself. (Although she really just goes along with what Lindsay wants, at least at first.)
  • Perky Goth: Anna Cartullo in the book.
  • Perpetual Smiler: Sam mentions in the book that one of her sort-of friends Tara Flute is "constantly smiling, like she's auditioning for a toothpaste ad."
  • Pet the Dog: While Lindsey does a lot of mean things throughout the book we do learn from other parts of the narrative that she does care and may have more Hidden Depths beyond just trying to make other people's lives miserable.
  • Pink Is for Sissies: Lindsay hates pink; Ally lives in it.
  • Really Gets Around: Elody, the most "experienced" of the girls but according to Sam she's only been with two people. (Lindsey has as well but one is unmentionable)
    • Anna Cartullo, although it's hinted some of it is just a rumour. Within the context of Sam's narrative she does have an affair with Alex but there's no evidence she had anyone else unlike the one she's cheating with.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Juliet gives one to the four at Kent's party.
    • Sam gives one to Lindsay when she finally snaps during one of the time loops.
  • Reset Button: Sam's new day starts either when she dies or when she falls asleep until her last day, where she dies for good.
  • Rich Bitch: All the girls are relatively well-off, but Ally has a pair of $500 galoshes she wears outside and has the biggest house. Lindsay also qualifies.
  • Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: A very common trait between the various girl friends we see in this story. Which may be some Truth in Television given it takes place in a smaller high school where it seems most people know the name of at least everyone in their grade. The girls at this school have little problems with boundaries that some more conservative readers might otherwise assume they are bi.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: The key to Sam's redemption is saving Juliet.
  • Single Girl Seeks Most Popular Guy: Rob's appeal to Sam, especially before she became popular herself.
  • Shadow Archetype: Arguably, Juliet is this to Sam. Both of them were bullied by Lindsay in the past, but whereas Juliet starts out as her best friend and could even qualify as a Fallen Princess, Sam and Lindsay become friends just before high-school. Sam becomes one of Lindsay's Alpha Bitch followers, ditching her old hobbies to fit in, whereas Juliet becomes an extremely unpopular loner because of Lindsay's bullying. The fact that Juliet is the key to Sam breaking out of her "Groundhog Day" Loop is possibly a reflection of this.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Juliet, as an in-universe example. When she chews Sam and the other three out in the book, Sam comments, "But I can't stop looking at her. I never knew she was so pretty."
    • Sam counts herself, in one of the book loops she buys a really expensive dress, gets her makeup done by a professional and says, "I look at least twenty-five." and three random college boys comment she's hot.
  • Shrinking Violet: Sam comments a picture of Juliet "looks like she wants to suck herself out of the frame entirely."
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Lindsay and Patrick, though Sam barely mentions it.
  • Sleep Cute: The only times Sam feels certain about loving Rob are watching him sleep on her shoulder.
  • Slut-Shaming: Immediately after her death, Sam's thoughts directly address the reader, wondering if they feel like she deserved to die because of what she'd done. Part of this is suggesting that some readers might think she deserved to die simply because she was planning to go all the way with her boyfriend.
  • Something About a Rose:
    • The girls compete over who receives the most roses for Valentine's (Cupid) Day and torment Juliet by sending her one every year with the words "Maybe next year, but probably not". Sam remedies this on the last day by sending her another one that reads "It's never too late".
    • Kent gives Sam a particularly beautiful cream-and-pink one.
  • Stepford Smiler: Lindsay, of all people, actually has a very difficult time coping with her parent's divorce and it's implied she's bulimic.
  • Super OCD: Ally is implied to be one. It's directly stated in the movie.
  • Sweet Tooth: Lindsay is always carrying candy with her in the book, even tucking sweets into her waistband.
  • Tastes Like Feet: "Butt bagels".
    • Starbucks tastes like "Dog pee strained through a trash bag." according to Sam.
  • Their First Time: Planned between Sam and Rob the night of the party, mostly for Sam to "get it over with". But with every loop, the prospect seems less and less appealing — on the sixth day, she plays a nasty prank to get rid of him, and on the seventh day, she finally breaks up with him in a mature, considerate manner. The sex never does happen, and she's more relieved than anything else.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: The word "bitch" is thrown around often, but Juliet uses it to great effect when she crashes Kent's party to give Sam, Lindsay, Ally and Elody a piece of her mind.
  • Those Three Girls: Tara, Bethany and Courtney, whom Sam hangs out with during the loop she has a fight with Lindsay and becomes their leader, remarking, "This is how Lindsay must feel all the time."
  • Time Loop Fatigue: Sam suffers this a few times, but especially during the loop when Juliet and Elody both die, from suicide and a car crash, respectively. It really hits hard since Elody was sitting in the car seat that Sam was supposed to be sitting in.
  • Tomboy And Girlygirl: Anna and Bridget, in keeping with their Love Triangle with Alex Liment.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Izzy loves peanut-butter.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Kent, who's been in love with Sam for years even though she shows him nothing but contempt. Even when she does realize she loves him back, one kiss is all they get before the end.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Sam and Juliet.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Lindsay and Juliet were friends until the 'Mellow Yellow' incident.
  • Weight Woe: Ally has issues with food. Lindsay is downright bulimic in the book, but, when Sam catches her in the bathroom, denies it.
  • What Does She See in Him?: Sam has coveted Rob for a long time, but to the reader he seems kind of dumb and eventually turns out to be a total jerk. It's implied that beneath her praise of him, Sam might be aware of this fact herself, but since Rob is popular she ignores it.
  • Wild Teen Party: Kent has one, and it leads to the deaths of Juliet and/or Sam, depending on the night.
    • Elody dies in one of the later book timeloops, since she sits in the passenger seat instead of Sam.
  • With Friends Like These...: Lindsay to the other three.
  • Yes-Man: Beth, one of "The Pugs", mostly just agrees with what everyone else says.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Out of the four friends, Sam and Ally are still virgins, and Sam doesn't want to be the last of her friends to lose her virginity.


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