Before I Fall | Study Guide

Lauren Oliver

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Before I Fall | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram



Samantha Kingston, who goes by the nickname Sam, reports on what she imagined death would be like and what it is actually like when she dies in a car accident. It is not that her "whole life flashes before [her] eyes," but simply that she thinks of Vicky Hallinan, a girl Sam's best friend, Lindsay Edgecombe, bullied in fourth grade.

Sam remembers the bullying incident with clarity, although she hasn't thought of it in years and doubts Vicky remembers. Sam also reveals that she and her friends—Lindsay, Elody, and Ally—were talking about death immediately before the car crash. Sam proposed that one sees one's "greatest hits" as one is dying, and each friend picked what those might be. Elody then put on a song, bumping into Lindsay, who was driving, and caused her to drop her cigarette. A flash of white streaked in front of the car. Then the car flipped off the road, collapsed, likely caught fire, and Sam died. She laments she never got to say goodbye to anyone.

Day 1

Lindsay picks Sam up for school. Because she is running late, Sam is annoyed by her sister Izzy slowing her down. In Lindsay's car, the two friends drink coffee and discuss Cupid Day and how many roses they might receive. They pick up Elody and cut Sarah Grundel off in the senior lot to get the last parking spot. In support of Sam's plan to sleep with her boyfriend, Rob Cokran, that night, Elody gives Sam a condom. In her classes, Sam gets a total of nine roses, including one from Rob and one from Kent McFuller, a somewhat eccentric senior whom Sam has known for a long time. Kent invites Sam to a party at his house that evening. Sam is dismissive of the invitation until Lindsay texts to confirm that they all are going.

At lunch Sam comments favorably about Ally's nine roses. Rob stops by quickly to kiss Sam, but Lindsay sends him away. Elody arrives with her 12 roses. When Juliet Sykes appears in the cafeteria, Ally confirms Juliet received their prank rose, and Sam wonders why Lindsay hates Juliet. They hear Sarah cannot swim in her meet because she was late, as Lindsay took the last parking spot.

Lindsay and Sam skip their next class to get frozen yogurt. While they are out of school, Lindsay notices Alex Liment in a Chinese restaurant with Anna Cartullo and heckles him about his girlfriend, Bridget McGuire. Back at school, Lindsay smokes behind the tennis courts, where Alex and Anna are also smoking. Sam does not warn Alex and Anna that Ms. Winters is out looking to bust smokers.

After school, Sam and her friends go to Ally's house to dress for the party. When they arrive at Kent's house, Rob finds Sam and reminds her of their plan to have sex. He is already drunk and goes to get more beer. Sam is standing with Lindsay, Ally, and Elody when Juliet enters the house and calls them all bitches. Shocked and angry, they react by pushing Juliet and dumping beer on her. Kent views the scene disapprovingly and chides Sam for her behavior. Sam finds out Bridget broke up with Alex because he got busted with Anna by Ms. Winters. Rob is too drunk to have sex, so Sam leaves with Lindsay. Lindsay hits something on the road, flipping the car, and Sam dies. Sam asks the reader if she deserves her fate.

Day 2

Sam wakes up in her own bed. When Izzy tells her to get up, Sam insists it is Saturday. However, after checking her phone, Sam sees it is still Friday, and Lindsay has to drag the very confused Sam to her car. As the day goes on, Sam feels déjà vu as many of the same events of Day 1 happen the same way as they did the day before. However, there are small changes, such as Sarah Grundel's being able to swim in her meet because she got the last parking spot instead of Lindsay. Not understanding what is happening upsets Sam and, as a result, she is nasty to Kent after calculus class. She tries to convince Rob Cokran to go to his house instead of the party, but Rob makes excuses.

While the friends prepare at Ally's house for Kent's party, Sam asks Lindsay if she was nervous when she first had sex. This question unsettles Lindsay because of her unpleasant secret that her first experience was with a college boy. At the party, Sam finally seems to accept the reality that the day is repeating itself when she sees Alex Liment and Bridget McGuire together. Because Lindsay did not heckle Alex and Anna, Alex was not late back to school and was not caught with Anna. Needing comfort, Sam goes to Rob, but he ditches her in favor of more beer. Sam tries to get Lindsay to take her home, but Juliet Sykes shows up and confronts them again. Driven by an instinct she does not understand, Sam pushes Juliet into a bookcase. When the girls leave the party in Lindsay's car, the crash happens in exactly the same way.

Day 3

Sam again finds herself reliving Friday, February 12. At first she feels hopeless and wants to stay home from school, but then she thinks she may be simply stuck in an "in-between place." With renewed hope of changing her ultimate fate, Sam heads to school for third period. She makes attempts to be nice to Lauren Lornet and Kent, avoids Rob Cokran, and convinces Lindsay to skip Kent's party. After cutting class and going for frozen yogurt, Sam and Lindsay nearly get caught smoking. Escaping from the watchful eyes of Ms. Winters leads Sam to discover Ms. Winters and Mr. Otto are having an affair. Sam also runs into Lauren—upset about being accused of cheating by Sam—but Sam refuses to exonerate her, justifying her inaction by dismissing Lauren as not her problem.

At Ally's house with her friends, Sam counts down the minutes and is relieved when she survives past the time of her "death." However, a few hours later, Mrs. Harris informs the girls that Juliet Sykes has died by suicide. Elody wonders if they bear some fault, but Lindsay coldly proposes Juliet is better off dead. Perusing Ally's old yearbooks, Sam discovers Lindsay and Juliet were best friends until fifth grade. Sam falls asleep, hoping she will finally wake up on Saturday.

Day 4

Angry to have woken up again on Friday, February 12, Sam decides "nothing matters anymore" and begins to act out. She provokes Lindsay, who kicks her out of the car, stopping precariously in the middle of the road on the way to school. Sam skips her first four classes and then goes to calculus class. In front of the entire class, she dumps her roses in the trash and flirts shamelessly with Mr. Daimler, who keeps her after class and then kisses her roughly. At lunch time Sam sees her friends have ditched her, so she hides out in the same bathroom Anna Cartullo is in. The two talk, smoke pot, and trade shoes. Ms. Winters catches Sam with cigarettes, but Sam avoids punishment by blackmailing her with the information about her affair with Mr. Otto.

After school Sam runs into Tara Flute, Bethany Harps, and Courtney Walker, and they decide to go to the mall. Sam shops with an American Express card stolen from her mother and flashes her breasts at a car full of boys. The girls eat dinner at an expensive French restaurant and head to Kent's party, where Sam argues with both Kent and Rob Cokran. Ally tells Sam she should apologize to Lindsay, but when Juliet Sykes enters the house, Sam cannot get away fast enough. She finds Rob and comes on to him, promising sex if they find a room. Before they get very far though, Rob falls asleep. Sam finds an empty room and sobs. Kent comes to comfort her and lets her stay overnight. He sweetly tucks her into bed and she falls asleep.

Day 5

As she expects, Sam wakes up on Friday, February 12, again and decides to stay home from school with Izzy. Together they go to one of Sam's former favorite spots, Goose Point. The forest around Goose Point is different because of construction, but the rock itself is the same. Izzy confides that kids sometimes make fun of her lisp, but she likes it because it is "her voice." Izzy finds a feather and gives it to Sam for safekeeping. Sam spends the rest of the afternoon with her family, watching movies and going out to dinner. While at the restaurant, Sam sees Juliet Sykes's younger sister and realizes she should check up on Juliet. She goes to Juliet's house under the pretense of being Juliet's lab partner. Juliet's parents cannot reach Juliet by phone.

Sam gets the idea that perhaps she is meant to save Juliet, thus the reason she keeps repeating the same day. Sam heads to Kent's party, but cannot find Juliet in the house. However, she does find her at the edge of the road but cannot stop her from jumping in front of Lindsay's car. Kent comforts Sam at his house and breaks the news that both Juliet and Elody have been killed. Sam sobs on Kent's shoulder, and he makes sure she is warm and dry. He lets her lie in his own bed and tells her he has always wanted to be her hero because she stood up for him in second grade. Kent stays with Sam until she falls asleep.

Day 6

Even though it is still February 12, Sam wakes up in a good mood. She is loving to her family and to Lindsay and Elody in the car. Sam makes sure Sarah Grundel gets the last parking spot and goes to make some adjustments to the Valograms, replacing Juliet Sykes's single prank rose with a whole bouquet. Sam skips calculus class to scrub the bathroom walls clean, removing Lindsay's graffiti about Anna being a slut. At lunch Sam expects to see Juliet happy with her roses, but she does not even have them. Sam follows Juliet to the parking lot but misses her. Kent brings her his rose, which she missed out on by skipping class, and she tells him she plans to attend his party.

Before they go into the party, Sam vows to herself to try to be a good person from now on. However, she immediately ends up angry with Rob Cokran for demanding an apology from her, and she plays a humiliating prank on him. She also confronts Alex Liment, in front of his girlfriend, about his cheating. When Juliet makes her entrance, Sam intercepts her and tries to apologize, but Juliet does not accept her apology because Sam and her friends have done too much harm over the years. Juliet reveals that when Lindsay was having a hard time about her parents' divorce, it was actually Lindsay, not Juliet, who urinated in her sleeping bag. Juliet flees from the house, and Sam goes after her. Lindsay is standing on the road this time because Sam has Lindsay's car keys, but Juliet jumps in front of a truck. Able to push her out of the way in time, Sam realizes Juliet's suicide attempt is not about revenge. Juliet jumps again, but this time Sam cannot save her. Afterward, Sam confronts Lindsay about her bulimia and the truth about "Mellow Yellow." Lindsay denies the bulimia but apologizes about Juliet. Sam gets a ride home from Kent, and they share a kiss.

Day 7

Sam just "knows" that Day 7 is her last day. She says goodbye to her family and gives Izzy her necklace. Sam asks Lindsay to drive to Starbucks. When they come out, they see Sarah Grundel waiting for their parking spot, meaning she will definitely be late and unable to swim in her meet. At school Sam does the best she can on her schoolwork and with her friends. She admonishes Mr. Daimler for coming on to students and gives her roses, except the one from Kent, to Marian Sykes. At lunch Sam breaks up diplomatically with Rob Cokran and sees Juliet Sykes with the rose and special message Sam sent: "It's never too late." Lindsay scolds Sam for not telling her about breaking up with Rob and is shocked by Sam's gift of a book of Escher sketches to Anna Cartullo.

Sam enjoys being with her friends as they get ready for Kent's party. When they arrive, Sam leaves to drive Lindsay's car back to Lindsay's house and has Kent pick her up. In Kent's car, Sam tells him his "was the best kiss ... ever" in her life, and then they kiss again. Sam goes in to the party and greets her friends before going downstairs to wait for Juliet. Sam apologizes to Juliet, who runs off, and Sam follows her to the road again. When Juliet jumps in front of a van, Sam sacrifices herself to save Juliet's life.


This time when Sam dies, she sees her "greatest hits," including time with family and friends, and kissing Kent. Sam says she is not scared, but enveloped by "warmth and light."

Before I Fall Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 On Cupid Day, Sam and her friends attend Kent's party.

Rising Action

2 When Juliet Sykes makes a scene, Sam is cruel to her.

3 With Lindsay driving, Sam dies in a car accident.

4 Sam wakes up to relive the day of her death.

5 Sam tries to change her fate, but cannot.

6 Angry and powerless, Sam does whatever she wants.


7 Sam realizes the key to her redemption is kindness.

Falling Action

8 Sam saves Juliet from suicide, sacrificing herself.


9 The cycle broken, Sam is allowed to move on.

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