What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all: the world’s most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High, from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12 should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it turns out to be her last.
Fortunately, she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
Samantha Kingston is stuck in a loop. She is pretty much your typical "mean girl" follower. She's high up on the popularity chain, she follows the group leader, Lindsay, in making mean remarks and very hurtful actions towards others, and she just does it because she knows she can get away with it. Sam totally admits this from the very start of the book. However, everything changes the night of a party when Sam dies. Thus begins the loop of reliving the same day over and over again, seven times by book's end.
As each day begins again, Sam starts to change, to see just how hurtful she is to others, and to herself in a lot of ways. Her actions are brought back to her tenfold and characters that started off as minor become major catalysts for her change.
All this said, I found Sam's journey to be incredibly long and drawn out. I started skimming midway through this book because I found her days starting to get repetitive. Yes, she did change but at the same time, I felt like the book was bogged down in the minor details of the day. Many readers may find this a good thing, and it certainly reinforces how even the most minor of actions can have a major consequence, but at the same time, I just wanted to see the story truly move forward.
Lauren Oliver has a very strong writing style however. She does a great job of subtly showing Sam's new understanding and change. Oliver just has a wonderful writing style and that kept me hanging onto this story when in other books, I may have given up if the writing had not been so strong.
One of my favorite passages in the book comes about when Sam is spending the day with her younger sister, Izzy. She says:
It's kind of sad, if you think about it. Like there's no continuity in people at all. Like something ruptures when you hit twelve, or thirteen, or whatever the age is when you're no longer a kid but a "young adult," and after that you're a totally different person. Maybe even a less happy person. Maybe even a worse one.
That just jumped out at me as being so very true. That is one of Lauren Oliver's talents in this book. Hitting the teen nail right on the head. Being self-centered, self-absorbed, but also having an insight into the world that an adult has passed by.
I think the true "theme" of this book, if you will, is encapsulated in this one paragraph:
It amazes me how easy it is for things to change, how easy it is to start off down the same road you always take and wind up somewhere new. Just one false step, one pause, one detour, and you end up with new friends or a bad reputation or a boyfriend or a breakup. It's never occurred to me before; I've never been able to see it. And it makes me feel, weirdly, like maybe all of these different possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other moments layered underneath it that look different.
Then there is the ending of the book itself which left me with no closure whatsoever. I guess it kind of fits in light of the dreamlike quality of some of the story but I wanted something different. In the end, I came away from this book with mixed feelings. The writing is fantastic; I felt like I was able to explore Sam as a character because of the reliving of the same day. But at the same time, I didn't feel like it was action-packed enough to keep my interest. And despite the heavy subject matter, it didn't quite engage my emotions as strongly as it could have. I feel like teens will love this book because it is such a heavy topic and lord knows, the more tragic the story, the more teens seem to love them. Lauren Oliver gives tragedy a new twist with exceptional writing. Even with my mixed feelings, this is a quality piece of teen fiction.