Top Ten Tuesday (June 26) – Characters I Think I Know in Real Life

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, where the terrific team over at The Broke and the Bookish give us excuses to make lists and indulge our inner OCD tendencies.

I’ve got to be honest, guys. I looked at the topic for this week, and I just about skipped it, because I’ve got nothing.

But then I was sad, because Top Ten Tuesday is my favorite meme, and I always enjoy coming up with my lists and seeing what others come up with. Plus, I’ve seen Galaxy Quest enough times that “Never give up, never surrender” is kind of emblazoned on my psyche, so admitting defeat wasn’t really an option.

The good news is that my psyche is apparently not opposed to a bit of cheating, so I decided to tweak the topic to one I could do.

So here’s the topic I was supposed to do:

Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me Of Myself Or Someone I Know In Real Life

Yup, complete blank. Part of the problem is that most of what I read is YA, and I am just…A. But even if I think of myself and my friends from back when I was in the YA age bracket, I still came up blank. Not a lot of authors tend to write books featuring characters who enjoy Star Trek and Scrabble. Comic books, maybe, but that’s probably because characters in books are on the verge of developing superpowers, and my friends and I never developed superpowers. So. This topic wasn’t going to work for me.

Here’s the one I’ve decided to do instead:

Top Ten Characters I Think I’d Have Been Friends With If We Went to High School Together

(That’s close enough, right?)

1. Hermione GrangerHarry PotterI was a big nerd and a squeaky clean kid. So was Hermione. We would either have been BFFs or arch nemeses, because that’s the way it works with smart kids.

2. Simon, The Mortal InstrumentsI have only read the first book in this series, but Simon was my favorite and I could totally see us hanging out and not wanting to go to clubs together.

3. Kent McFuller, Before I FallI can’t say anyone I was friends with in high school actually wore a bowler hat, but I still think that Kent would have fit right in.

4. Angela, TwilightShe’s sweet and soft-spoken and kind of hangs back while her friends arm wrestle for attention. I can relate to that.

5. Peeta, The Hunger GamesOkay, it’s highly probable that Peeta would be too cool to be my friend because he’d probably be on the football team or something like that, and not in the marching band with me, but I’m going to hold out hope that we’d be buds.

 6. Chuck, The Maze RunnerGranted, we will probably never know what Chuck was like before the Maze, but he seems like the kind of kid I would have joked with in study hall.

7. Kate, Die For Me. Assuming her parents never died and she never moved to Paris and never fell for the undead Vincent, we’d probably have gotten along pretty well. She’s quiet and bookish and not one for large groups of people, and that was pretty much me in high school.

8. Beth, Little WomenI love Jo and all, but Beth is the one I think I would have clicked with. She was probably the type that was quiet in groups, especially when there were strong personalities present (like, you know, every other member of her family), but was lots of fun one-on-one. Some of my best friends are like that.

9. Inigo Montoya, The Princess BrideI’ll admit this one is probably just wishful thinking, but wouldn’t it be great to be friends with teenage Inigo? Maybe he’d have been an exchange student. I never actually befriended any exchange students, but I probably would have if Inigo was one.

10. Marlee, The SelectionBecause honestly, Marlee would have been friends with everyone in high school.

So there you go. Sorry I cheated.

Feature & Follow #99 – Fictional Character Blind Date

Welcome to the Feature & Follow Hop, hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read!

If you’re new to my blog, I’d love if you would follow via one of the subscription options in the sidebar (LinkyFollowers, Networked Blogs, RSS or Email). Be sure to let me know in the comments how you’re following so I can return the favor!

This week’s question (which was MY SUGGESTION, by the way) is:

You are a matchmaker — your goal, hook up two characters from two of your favorite books. Who would it be? How do you think it would go?

Okay, I know I suggested it, but this is actually hard. So many characters in books are already paired off! I don’t want to pull someone out of a “perfect” pairing, which leaves relatively slim pickings. BUT, I can do it. So.

I’m starting with the guy: Kent McFuller from Before I Fall. Poor Kent. He’s so sweet and kind and loyal, and he really gets the short straw in that book.

I mean…other than Sam, who has to die every night for a week. That’s probably a slightly worse hand than what Kent is dealt. But still. I love Kent, and he’s the one I walked away thinking about when the book was finished.

Anyway. Now to pick a lovely lady for him.

I pick Marlee from The Selection.

She’s sweet, she’s gentle, she’s kind, she’s beautiful, she appears to be universally loved, and she’s admitted she’s not that into Prince Maxon. And you know why? Because she should be with Kent. I imagine it would go something like this:

Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (@oliverbooks @harperteen)

Lauren Oliver is quickly climbing my list of “authors I trust.” She may not have many books under her belt yet (she is also the author of Delirium and Pandemonium – read my review of the latter here), but I love what I’ve read so far. She has an amazing talent for writing characters in such a way that I feel like I know them and understand them – even if I don’t agree with them. She tackles subject matter I wouldn’t normally be interested in, and makes me care.

Such is the case in her debut novel, Before I Fall.

The Plot

The story follows Sam, your typical popular, Plastics-esque high school villain. She has it all: good looks, charmed life, macho boyfriend, beautiful friends.

That is, until the night she dies in a fiery wreck.

Imagine her surprise when she wakes up the following day…only to find out it’s not the following day. It’s the same day. Again.

What follows is a week of Sam reliving (and sometimes re-dying) that same fateful Friday over and over again.

She goes through it the way I imagine most of us would. First she denies what is happening to her. Tries to pretend it was all a dream or a hallucination. But it quickly becomes clear that what she’s going through is very real. And once she figures that out, she struggles with how to move forward.

Should she approach each day with a carefree, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow I’ll be dead” attitude? Should she try to right her past wrongs? Should she attempt to change the future?

As Sam goes through each day, her eyes are slowly opened to the realities of her life and the lives around her, and the truth behind her death.

My Thoughts

I’ll get it out of the way early: Before I Fall is Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day. Sam’s story is equal parts Cady Heron (post-Plastification) and Phil Connors (although she probably resembles Lindsay Lohan a bit more than Bill Murray).

But you know what? I love Mean Girls and Groundhog Day. And I loved Before I Fall. So who cares? A good story is a good story.

So, that said, what’s the fun in reading a book about a Mean Girl that lives the same horrible day over and over, and dies after most of them?

As I said before: Lauren Oliver has an amazing talent.

I’m guessing that unless you really are Regina George, you will hate Sam at the start of the novel. She’s shallow, she’s rude, she’s selfish, and she’s mean. She justifies all her actions to herself, but she’s not in any way likable. I spent most of the first few chapters wanting to shake some sense into her vapid, empty head.

However, the more I read, the more invested I was in Sam and her journey. She grew. She transformed. Sometimes I wished she would snap out of her Plastics mentality faster, but Ms. Oliver wrote her arc very naturally and organically. And even when I didn’t agree with her decisionsI understood them.

Yes, there were parts where it dragged slightly (the fact that those parts are few and far between is still a monumental achievement in a book that recounts the same day seven times). And while I found myself ultimately liking Sam and cheering her on, there were a few other characters that made me gag every time they entered the scene (Sam’s BFF, Lindsay, and hunky boyfriend, Rob, are two prime examples). I understand their necessity to the story, but man, were they ever annoying.

The biggest problem I had with the book was that even after Sam realizes the error of her ways, she never calls out her friends (especially Lindsay) on their incessant bullying of…well, just about everyone. On the one hand, I can see how Sam is still intimidated by Lindsay and afraid of upsetting her. On the other…I kind of just wanted her to grow a spine.

However, those annoyances were completely overshadowed by my investment in Sam’s story; my complete adoration of the character of Kent, the sensitive, socially awkward boy who’s had a crush on Sam ever since elementary school; and my fascination with the character of Juliet, a reclusive girl who Sam, Lindsay & Co. have been tormenting for years.

Before I Fall ended before I was ready, but it ended where it needed to end. The story was resolved the way it should be (and no, I’m not going to tell you if she lives or dies. You’ll have to find that out for yourself).

I found myself thinking about Sam and her story long after I put the book down. Her story is haunting, sweet, heartbreaking, and inspiring. I loved it.

Content Guide: Contains some violence, teenage drinking and drug use, bullying, minor sexual content and language.