Monday, August 22, 2011

If I Stay

Mia is an accomplished cellist and part of a loving, supportive family. On a normal family car ride, tragedy struck and a large truck hit their car. Now, she is inexplicably standing outside of her body, among the corpses of her parents, watching paramedics tend to her brother and herself. Not knowing if she's alive or dead, she follows her body to the hospital, where it lies comatose. As her friends and family come to visit her and talk to her, she thinks on the past and ponders an important question: should she fight to live or simply die?

I love If I Stay. I read it for a read-a-thon and just devoured it in a couple of hours. I didn't expect to like it so much. I heard a lot of rave reviews before I read it, but it didn't seem like something I would like. It seemed like a lame Nicholas Sparks novel whose only purpose is to make me cry. I was totally wrong. I love pretty much everything about this book. The book is told through Mia's eyes. It starts with the day of the accident and then the present interweaves with the past. While she sees her friends and family talk to her and watch them deal with her parents' deaths and her coma, Mia has flashbacks to important events with all her loved ones. The events show a realistic life that's not perfect, but filled with well meaning, loving people. They aren't in any particular order and each one lets the read get to know her and her circle of loved ones better. I think it gives the novel a more natural stream of consciousness feel as opposed to putting them in chronological order.

The prose is really beautiful. It's simple and straight forward, but descriptive as well. The story is emotionally driven without being manipulative. I think the writing makes it accessible to readers beyond young adults, younger and older. I was sucked into the story quickly mostly because of the vivid characters. The characters are detailed, realistic, and flawed. Getting to know the characters is heartbreaking because some of them died in the first few pages and you feel more of the pain they are feeling in the present. Mia is someone I would be friends with in real life because her character is so richly imagined and we have a lot in common. Unlike a lot of YA novels, I thought the romance between Mia and Adam is realistic. They aren't fully consumed by their love or super overdramatic or creepily codependent, like so many relationships are in YA. They love each other, but argue, disagree, and fight like real couples do.

My absolute favorite part of the novel is the music. Music is what really ties the story and all the characters together. Mia is a classical musician born to a family of rockers and her boyfriend is in an emo rock band. Even though they all enjoy and play different genres, they all share a love and passion for music. The juxtaposition of different opinions and genres allows them to learn to break through their preconception and respect each other. The descriptions of music and the experience playing music is wonderful and really what makes me love this book. I like that Gayle Forman names specific pieces and songs so I can go and listen to them while I read the book.

I enjoyed If I Stay because it's not just a depressing story. It's really about life and its complexities. The ending was perfect and beautiful. I cried many times throughout the book, but I also laughed and got frustrated with the characters. I would recommend this to those looking for a complex, emotional book.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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