Monday, September 2, 2013

Book Review: If I Stay

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If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Hardcover, 201 Pages
Published April 2009
0525421033 (ISBN13: 9780525421030)

I’ve heard many positive things about Gayle Forman’s If I Stay so I was really tempted to read. So on my own whim, I bought it from the bookstore and dove into it instantly; I wouldn’t call it love at first page, but hey, give me props for wanting to give it a try. And I read it, and initially I think somewhere in its beginning I decided not to like it. Then I tried reading it again. And again, and again... you get the point. And guys, this is over a span of three years. It took me forever to realize I wasn’t giving the book the light of day I knew it should have, and a teeeny self-note: never turn down a book for its beginning because it can get better. This was the case for If I Stay.

Yes— this story does dumps a lot of tragedy early in its beginning, and out of the tragedy erupts a beautiful novel like this— so lyrical and just so romantically written, I couldn’t help but come to love it at its end. Actually... I didn’t want it to end, because with the way the whole novel was wrapped up—I just couldn’t believe it had to stop there, because by the time you finished I know you’ll be full of questions and wanting answers just as I was.

My little summary: so this story follows Mia, a seventeen year old virtuoso at the cello, has a gorgeous and amazing boyfriend, a very promising future, and a family who adores her. Perfect, right? In an instant, on a day that started like any other, Mia’s family dies in an automobile accident and her near-perfect life is taken away from her. Mia is left in a comatose state; trapped between life and death, between a happy past and an unclear future, Mia must decide whether she wants to stay or live.

I was heartbroken. Mia lost her entire family in an instant (and in this book, it is literally the case.) This sounds cruel, but I was lacking sympathy for her and the characters. I think this is due to the fact that we hardly knew the characters in its beginning, and Mia had such a perfect life even I was beginning to feel a little envy. I was doubtful; Mia was giving that total Mary Sue vibe, and the almost perfection (almost) of her life just seemed way too good to be true.

Honestly, I didn’t even realize the car accident had happened. How it is written in the book was so quick and brief, and I ran over the sentence so quickly I hadn’t even realized the car accident happened. Next thing I know, the ambulance is arriving and I’m wondering: “What did I just read?” No worries, I re-read it but I just wished it could’ve been written at a more... moderate pace so I could actually catch onto what happened more easily.

Perhaps, if there was a thing that bothered me most about If I Stay, was the fact there wasn’t much happening. There’s little episodic tales that somehow tie into the story otherwise while she’s in her coma, and just some really heartfelt moments. As the memories of Mia’s past and future unravel, you can’t help but think but wonder what she will choose in the long run—and if it weren’t for such a big decision she had to make by the novel’s end, I probably would’ve put the book down. There’s just no clear plot, just full of written charm and wit from Mia in such an expressive, beautiful way. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with beautiful writing, as I do admire Gayle Forman’s stylization and dialogue, but you might find yourself craving a little more if you’re one of those readers who love their books jam-packed with plot lines, plot twists, plot ANYTHING, really.

But what’s amazing is how sincere the relationship between her boyfriend, Adam, and Mia connected. I didn’t really care for the couple much, because we were never given that character-driven, building moment where the story slowly eases into their first kiss and really see their relationship blossom. In this instance, the more is told about the relationship between the two the more you realize how amazing of a couple they are together. I mean, the rocker and the cello-player?! That sounds absolutely adorable and Forman just writes their romance in a way when it just really comes to work.

No joke, I started off not liking this book much at all. I was bored, and wanted more from it but then as soon as I finished I screamed out “NOOOOO!” because it just couldn’t end there. It can’t!! Not especially when there’s so much more story to tell about Mia’s future, Adam—well, everything. But don’t worry, my lips are sealed!

So is If I Stay a miss or a pass? Personally, I think this book particularly is something that might appeal to the older YA readers, and the lack of the plot-driven storyline might be a little annoying to some. It’s a mix of tender moments and the characters are given a lot of depth, and overall an amazingly written story. It might not be tonight’s page turner or your favorite, but is something I’d recommend reading if you’re looking for a good winter read passer-by.
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Happy reading!
With much love,
Bri

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