Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (HarperCollins) reminded me a lot of The Deathday Letter: both books on mortality and what you're going to do with it.
It seems like everything's going right for Sam. She's unquestionably popular, has the right boyfriend (one who refused her years ago, no less), has three BFFs, and tonight is going to be THE big night with her boyfriend. The problem is, her day isn't starting off so well--she's awake too late to get a shower, she gets a rose from the wrong boy, there's a fight at this party when a weird girl shows up, and then Sam dies.
And wakes up, and finds herself in the same place she was twenty-four hours ago, faced with tackling the same sometimes-awful, sometimes-wonderful day. After several attempts to make things right, Sam figures out that it's maybe not so much about dying as about living every moment you have.
For all that Before I Fall is about death, the strongest focus is on puzzling out the events of the day; at the same time, the message is clear: you never know when it will be your last time. It took me a long time to connect with the protagonist, but upon reflection, I like that she's not always likeable; it seems like that's okay for a boy protagonist, but not for a girl, so I'm glad to have seen her. The last quarter of the book is the strongest, as Sam unravels problems for and about those she loves best.
I read this book as a first-round judge for the Cybils Awards, which means that I may have received a review copy from the publisher (or not; I own a lot of the books in this category). I read some books nominated for the YA fantasy and science fiction category in 2010 before the nomination period, and may have already reviewed them or declined to make a public review; these books might not have a Cybils post tag. As a first-round judge, I was tasked with helping create a shortlist of books. My personal reviews do not reflect any actions or discussions of the judging committee.