Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review, No. 4

Sam is perfect, popular. And then she dies in a car crash. Only she wakes up again to that last day, living it seven times over, determined to save herself. But maybe it's not her who needs saving.

This is Oliver's first novel, which is astounding, really, for how well done it is, how perfectly she captures the characters and makes a tired plot ploy somehow suddenly original. It is...mature in the sense that it follows a far-from-perfect teenager angry at her death and having to face it again and again, without real consequence. Predictably, she spends a day doing anything--and I mean anything. It got a little uncomfortable, but never graphic. There there is swearing and drinking littered throughout the book, but it makes everything feel real.

Oliver makes us feel whatever her narrator, Sam, is feeling. From that first day, when she's still alive and a totally snotty HS queen bee, to the last night where she finally realizes what life counts for--I followed each step, felt every emotion. The confusion of waking up, the frustration of not just dying, the desperation of wanting to live, and the peace of understanding, Oliver's story is powerful, even intoxicating at times.

Though the first half is hard to get through--with her still far from fixing things, still ruining hers and others lives day after day--the second half takes a perfect turn. It's a perfect journey to the end. For the last three "days," I was completely breathless, watching the tortured Sam finally figure things out.

Even if it was a bit predictable, it was so well-done, I could not mind. Any other first-time author might have been tempted to wrap a pretty bow on the end, giving every character a happily-ever-after, but Oliver remained true to her slightly-dark-yet-so-hopeful story, pulling us through a harsh end, inspiring us to Sam's same sense of hope.

Plus, you know a story is good when you can imagine the characters living beyond the book. Each character came alive in such a real sense, you can picture what happens next, even after the rather abrupt end.

Teenagers can be really stupid sometimes. So there is a lot of hardness to get through, hence 3.5/5

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