Monday, March 7, 2011

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Penguin, April, 2009

Summary from Goodreads:

Mia has no memory of the accident that changed her life. This inexperienced 17-year-old only recalls riding on that slippery Oregon road with her family, then, in an instant, seeing herself lifted from the twisted wreck. This affecting story of one young woman's struggle through tragedy and grieving will appeal to readers of books like Thirteen Reasons Why.
I read this book almost two years ago, but with the sequel, Where She Went, due April 5th, I knew I wanted to reacquaint myself with Mia's story.

And what a story it is! Gayle Forman is a gifted writer, and this novel is one of the most eloquent I've ever read. Mia's story unfolds as she hovers just above her life, almost ready to leave, but not quite. I absolutely fell in love with every. Single. Character. In this story. Mia's got the perfect, quirky little family. Mom and Dad are just eccentric enough to be fun but not so weird that they're embarrassing. Gramps and Gran are perfect grandparents--proud and doting without suffocation. And Teddy! Oh, I love Teddy and want him for my very own. Mia's best friend Kim and boyfriend Adam are just likable enough--not without their faults, but all in all two great friends to have in your corner. 

I think I have to revisit my previous declaration that I don't cry easily while reading. I've said it before: I cry all the time while watching TV--shows, movies, even commercials make me bawl like a baby. It's much harder for a book to move me to tears, though. I'd say that out of every hundred books I read, I'll tear up while reading four, maybe five of them. If I Stay is one of those books, and one scene that caused me to tear up was when Gramps is visiting Mia in the hospital:

"It's okay," he tells me. "If you want to go. Everyone wants you to stay. I want you to stay more than anything I've ever wanted in my life." His voice cracks with emotion. He stops, clears his throat, takes a breath, and continues. "But that's what I want and I could see why it might not be what you want. So I just wanted to tell you that I understand if you go. It's okay if you have to leave us. It's okay if you want to stop fighting." (p. 181, paperback edition)
Oh my word, there's just so much emotion there, and Gramps is just so heart-breakingly honest with Mia and with himself. I was a mess after that one short paragraph.

The question Gayle poses is such a difficult one: should Mia stay, or should she go? She's lost so much that staying would be difficult, if not impossible--is there anything left that would make her want to stay?
If you haven't already read If I Stay, I suggest it, obviously. It's contemporary, it's romantic--it's a great read. HOWEVER: if you haven't read it yet, then wait until the day before Where She Went is released (April 5th) and read it then. If I Stay is wonderful on its own, and would be absolutely complete if Gayle never wrote a sequel. Reading the two together, though, really showcases Gayle Forman's awesomeness.

Won book in contest.
Enjoy your reading!

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