Monday, September 1, 2014

If I Stay by Gayle Forman | Book Review

(The copy that I read was a later reprint, and the publisher had removed the "Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT" from the front cover.  I got lucky; I imagine even newer copies now say something like "Soon to be a major motion picture."  Sometimes cover blurbs are so ridiculous.  This book is nothing like Twilight and is so much more than a coming attraction.)

Yes, I know... I'm about 4 years late to the If I Stay party.  But it's about to be a movie, and I got pretty excited about the preview.  I think this is going to be a movie I want to see.  And we have a rule in our house that we have to read the book before we see the movie.  (Maybe someday I'll bore you with a book review/synopsis of Les Miserables.  My hubby lets nothing slide; I spent three weeks on that freaking French book so that we could watch the movie.  Bah.)  Fortunately, this one was short and sweet; a real pleasure to read.  Also fortunate: I had already read a bunch of reviews of the book years ago and have since read lots of reviews of Where She Went so I got to skip all the emotional turmoil!

The emotional turmoil to which I refer?  At the beginning of If I Stay, Mia and her family are in a car wreck.  Her family is killed.  She is left in a coma.  What follows are the first 24 hours.  Mia is having an out-of-body experience, so we see everything from her point of view; we also get to see all her memories.  What will she choose: to stay or go?  What would you choose?

If I Stay promo clip #1:

Back to the book.  I flew through the book in an afternoon.  Not only is it physically short, but it's well-written, so it's easy to get lost in the plot without having to concentrate too hard.  The entire book is told from Mia's point of view, and we see a ton of character growth in her.  It's amazing, really, how much her character grows and how much her boyfriend and best friend's characters are developed, considering that the book takes place over a 24-hour period during which Mia is in a coma.  That takes talent!  Gayle Forman does much of this through flashbacks and memories.  

At the beginning of the book (for all of 12 pages; literally) Mia has it pretty good.  She's got a loving family that's all in one piece (I feel like this is rare in YA lit anymore) and loving grandparents and a good boyfriend and an awesome bestie.  She's a solid B student, but she's a cello star.  She's in the process of applying to Julliard. Her boyfriend is in a punk band that just got signed to a medium-sized label.  I like that she's not naive about all this; at one point she actually reflects on the fact that she's never had any devastation, no major losses, in her life.  She wonders if she had, if that would make this devastation any easier.  I love love love that about Mia:  she's totally aware of the awesome life she has and not ungrateful for it.  She's smart.  She knows that nothing will be the same if she stays, yet it's hard for her to deny the immense amount of love in the waiting room, all the extended family and friends who are cheering for her to make it.  Somehow, magically, Gayle Forman is able to convey all of this without ever (not once!) sounding preachy.  I'm just blown away by the writing.

Skip this paragraph if you have been living under a rock and haven't heard anything about If I Stay or Where She Went.  So we all know that there's a sequel now, so we all know that Mia stays.  Yay!  I think I'd have had a more emotional reaction to If I Stay if I hadn't been aware of Where She Went.  As it is, I was able to focus more on the characters and the prose and the layout of the book.  However, I don't know that I could trust myself not to cry in the movie.  I knew the ending of TFiOS and I still totally melted in that movie.  Even knowing the ending to If I Stay, I was never bored.  I never skimmed pages.  I was totally engrossed in how the story unfolded.  Like I said just above, I am totally totally totally blown away by the writing.  

If I Stay gets 5 of 5 stars from me, and I'm adding Where She Went to my TBR list!

If I Stay promo clip #2:

*I received my copy of If I Stay from my public library.

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