Sam is a teenager who has it all - she's one of the most popular girls in school, has the most-drool worthy boyfriend and two awesome best friends and is invited to every cool party out there. And then she dies in a car accident. It's not the end of the story for her though because she gets a second chance, seven second chances to be exact, to figure out what's really important.
I should preface this review by saying that I'm not a fan of the "groundhog day" scenario and this spoiled the story for me in a way. It was very well done however and I think that this is an excellent read for those who are entering the "must be cool" stage, regardless of age.
From the very fist pages of the book I didn't like Sam and her friends. They were so jaded despite their youth, so shallow and mean, even to each other, not caring in the least about how their actions and words made the other kids feel. So by the end of the chapter where Sam realizes that she's dying I didn't have much sympathy for her. Had the writing not been great and voice very appropriate for the setting and the characters and had I not hoped that Sam wasn't really as rotten as she appeared (there was a glimmer of a real person in there, beneath all the glitter and lipgloss) I would've set the book aside and moved on to something else. I did keep reading though.
My favorite characters here were the outsiders constantly picked on by Sam's clique. They were kids with real interests, considerate of others, people worth knowing. Kent and Izzy stood out especially because they marched to their own drum and were just themselves, without trying to fit in with any particular group. I guess they had to be there to contrast with the mean girls and I was glad for their presence and for how genuine and accepting they were, despite Sam's ill treatment of them and others. I'm still not used to the customary practically absent parents in YA and can't wrap my mind around how it's possible for kids to live in a world where parents appear to have little to no importance. I wished that Sam's parents had more of a presence in the book but I guess that's just one of those things that come with the genre being YA.
Sam's evolution was a bit painful to watch, especially in the beginning - it was like watching a blind person stumbling in a maze, looking for the way out. Over the course of 7 days she made some choices I couldn't agree with but she had to make them and they really weren't so outlandish that I couldn't see her making them (props to Ms. Oliver for keeping things believable in the middle of a totally fantastical scenario). It was very satisfying to see her make the right choices, although I couldn't help but wonder what would happen with the story when Sam did everything right. By then I kind of didn't want it to end. And I really hoped that she would make one more choice that to me seemed to be made and was a bit disappointed that she didn't even seem to consider it. Won't tell you what it is though, you'll have to see for yourself.
I started this review thinking that I didn't particularly like this book. Now I think I liked it more than I realized. So if you haven't read it yet - there's no better time than now!