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If I Stay ~ Gayle Forman

August 29, 2009

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Dutton Books

201 pages

ISBN: 9780525421030

Imagine: You love your family. Your parents dig the Ramones and actually know what MTV is. They still jam with their old band mates and encourage your own expressive freedom. They get you and you get them. You even enjoy spending time with your nine year old brother. You have a sexy but sweet boyfriend who plays lead guitar and vocals for Portland’s hippest and and coming rock band. You are an bright young cellist player, catching the eye of many a milling mentor with an application in to Julliard.

Forgetting for a moment the stresses of senior year and the anxiety that comes with the prospect of leaving your home for a strange city across country, you go out for a post-breakfast drive with your beloved family one snowy weekend morning. A driver hits your car leaving you and your family in critical condition. Instead of remaining with your body, however, you suddenly find yourself watching the scene, your relatives and friends visiting as you remain alive on machines alone. It soon becomes abundantly clear that it is your decision to a make: Should I stay or should I go?

Meet Mia. This is her life.

If I Stay is Mia’s story of a cooler than normal life suddenly and violently derailed. It is a beautiful and subtle meditation on what we perceive, in the moment and beyond, as important, pivotal and truly life altering. A short story but a powerful one, there are undercurrents of faith discussion but it remains non-denominational and refrains from any specific moralistic babble. The discussion is rather a discovery and exploration of the choices we make in life (and possibly in death) and how these choices are effected by those we love.

While Forman could easily have slipped into cheesy metaphors, she keeps the beat realistically grounded with a strong musical theme, both classical and alta-core. The writing is rich and well rounded in a way that a lot of young adult writing is not. I read a criticism of the book (by an adult) a little while ago that complained that this was not written for teens, that high school students do not speak like Mia and her friends. I will argue that and say that this is perhaps exactly how teens speak and certainly write. We often forget as “wise” adults that high school seniors are either preparing for or recovering from strenuous SAT prep during which they are certainly expected to master vocabulary and sentence structure that the average adult hasn’t seen since. Forman intelligently embraces this with engaging ease in a style that weaves a magnificent little piece of work.

This is geared toward teens but it is also a pretty deep analysis of important life forces that will resonate with anyone who has ever faced a heavy loss. Be warned, though, I don’t cry at the end of books or movies and I was pretty weepy when I set it down.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 29, 2009 3:50 pm

    I won this book a month or so ago, and now I’m even more eager to read it. Thanks.

  2. jpetroroy permalink
    August 29, 2009 4:55 pm

    Great review, Pam! I’m glad you enjoyed it. I thought this book as so sad, yet so beautiful.

  3. August 30, 2009 3:04 am

    I really loved this book and I like how you say she had a cooler than normal life. How true. 🙂

    And yes, I too was weepy! Beautiful review!

  4. August 30, 2009 10:11 am

    Pam, I really enjoyed this book when I read it earlier this year. It is indeed beautiful and subtle and poignant as well as having some moments of humour.

  5. stacybuckeye permalink
    August 31, 2009 5:09 pm

    I am currently listening to this so I didn’t read the whole review, but so far I am really liking it!

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