Also by this author: If I Stay, Just One Night, I Was Here, I Was Here
Published by Penguin on 2009-04-02
Genres: Death & Dying, Family, General, New Experience, Social Issues, Young Adult
The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year. Soon to be a major motion picture, starring Chloe Moretz! In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.
I thought I knew what I might say after finally reading If I Stay by Gayle Forman but truth be told I am still at a loss for words. Everyone was telling me that this book was going to break me and maybe that is why I kept putting it off for so long. I mean, all the people that I associate with on a regular basis via twitter kept raving about how wonderful this book was, and I think in a way I was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to expectations. Also, I think I was also a little afraid to read a book that might toy with my emotions the way that people said that it would. Did I mention that my copy of If I Stay is also signed and that it says “happy (and sad) reading”? Because that may have also been a factor in my putting it off to read till later. Alas, I finally broke down and decided to read it albeit after a little persuasion from Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner. Guys, when Jamie found out that I had not read anything by Gayle Forman yet, let’s just say … it was not pretty … and thus, I decided that after returning from BEA 2014, my first read would not be one of the ARCs that I had been lucky enough to pick up but instead If I Stay. Was this a good decision? Hmm.
First of all, the main character Mia has such a strong voice that pulled me in right from the beginning. Immediately I could visualize what was happening on what was supposed to be an average day in her life. Eating breakfast with the parents and younger brother, joking around with them, deciding exactly what it was they were going to do since it was a snow day. Everything seemed so typical and relatable except the day turned out to be anything but average for her and the rest of her family. From the moment, the accident happened my mind kind of went into a tail spin just like Mia’s did. Suddenly it was not Mia and her parents and her brother anymore but it was just Mia – a girl in a coma who now had to make one of the toughest decisions of her life – would she stay and live or would she go and join her family in death?
Mia’s voice continued to be strong as she lay in a coma and her mind revisited the moments that had led her to this particular moment in time. Each time she was able to realize another detail from the accident my heart broke for her even more. And as she reflected on moments from the past that had brought her to where she was today (her relationship with Adam, her audition at Julliard, moments from her childhood with her family and friends), I was just enthralled. I can’t really explain it. I mean, it’s always interesting how all these little moments that may not seem so poignant at the time suddenly become poignant when tragedy strikes. My heart was beating and breaking for this character, her family, her boyfriend Adam, and her best friend Kim. I understood the depth and the difficulty of her decision. Everything was so beautifully written. Everything was intricate – every character has its place in Mia’s life and every moment that was revealed played a key role in her decision – it was so well done. I was on a roller coaster ride and while I was holding on for dear life, I was still loving every single minute of it.
I also really liked the role that music played throughout If I Stay. Many of you might not know this about me but I played clarinet from the time I was in fourth grade until I graduated from high school. I did concert band, symphonic band, and marching band. It was a huge part of my life. Something that I would never trade for the world. Now I haven’t exactly played clarinet since I graduated from high school but I still find myself listening to some of the pieces that we played when I was in band. I still connect with them, and they still resonate with me very deeply. Thus, when I discovered that a huge part of who Mia was as a person was her attachment to playing the cello, and classical music, I was hooked. I get it. I got her. And I completely understood what she was talking about when she discussed having different musical tastes than others around her. I understood her fear of being different from the people around her because of her music choices. And my favorite part? Her realization that music could in fact bring her together with people. I got it. I understood. And I loved it.
There was so much about If I Stay that I enjoyed but I’m still at a loss of words as to how to capture it so completely in this review without sounding like a rambling crazy woman. Truthfully though all I can say is looking back now, I can’t honestly tell you why I put reading it off for so long. I should have known to trust the people who were telling me to read it as they usually only have my best interests at heart. Although I must say getting that look of shock from Jamie over the fact that I hadn’t read it yet was one for the memory books. But seriously, if you like me for some reason have not read this book yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. If you’re anything like me, it’ll be one of the best decisions you have made recently. With her words, Gayle Foreman will move your heart and will make you think in ways that you might not necessarily want to. I know that while I was reading I kept wondering what I would do if I was in Mia’s shoes. Honestly, I’m still not sure I know what the right answer would be.