Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review - If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Summary: (via back cover) Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones. Stay true to her first love – music – even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone except one. And it’s the only one that matters.

Review: As the story beings, we are introduced to Mia, the story’s narrator. She is seventeen, loves her family and her boyfriend and is an aspiring cellist with big dreams about a musical career. During a special snow-day outing, Mia and her family are involved in a freak car accident. Her parents die instantly, and Mia, whose body also suffers extensive damage, slips into a coma. While physically incapacitated, Mia’s spirit is released from her body and occupies a strange out-of-body state (think along the lines of Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones) where she can only do one thing: hover over the living, deciding whether she wants to come back to them or not (which of course Susie wasn’t able to do).

Not surprisingly, this decision is difficult. Standing there, looking at her lifeless physical form and the grieving faces of those she loves that are still alive, Mia’s mind is flooded with glimpses of what once was. Death seems appealing while reliving memories of her bold, feminist mother and gentle, punk-musician father. They always understood her for what she was, and never pressured her to be anybody else. But now they’re gone, Mia feels compelled to choose and remain a part of her family’s four-member whole, a whole that should never be separated, not even in death no matter how premature.

Interlaced with the memories of her family are images of someone else very important to Mia, her boyfriend Adam. As she watches him suffer by her hospital bed, Mia relives their young romance, one memory at the time. Theirs was a rocky relationship; he was the popular rock-band bassist and she was a virtual nobody. But a common love for music brought them together somehow. Their love is atypically strong, but we believe it and it starts to seem possible that Mia’s love for Adam might be enough to make her come back to him.

Although not clearly stated, I believe that the memories Mia has of herself are most decisive in her choice between life and death. Once destined for a bright future as a Julliard student, the car crash has irreversible impact on who she is and who she wants to become. Here, the author seems to question whether childhood dreams about the future are powerful enough to keep one's the desire for life.

It’s redundant for me to say that If I Stay is a hard story. It didn’t make me cry, but it did stir up some emotions. The two main relationships between Mia and her parents and Mia and Adam are very maturely developed and I haven’t seen a better understanding between any four characters in any YA novel in a while.

Lit Snit Verdict: B (at 199 pages, this story was just a little too short)

UPDATE: So I know that one of the reasons i didn't love this book was its length. Well, guess what? The author is actually coming up with an non-sequel second book about Mia and Adam, which will be told through Adam's perspective. This second book, entitled Where She Went, will be released on March 31, 2011. What's even more exciting is the Where She Went Teaser Tour happening like RIGHT NOW. A lot of blogs are participating. Click here to check it out. -8/19/10

UPDATE #2: The cover for the If I Stay sequel has just been revealed and it looks like this:
I'm liking it a lot...even if Adam is still not featured. Click here to read more about the new cover. -8/24/10

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