Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book review: If I Stay

If I Stay
What would you do if everything you had suddenly disappears in the blink of an eye? And what would you do if you were given one important choice to make? Would you stay or would you go?

If I Stay by Gayle Forman (Black Swan)
17-year old Mia seems to have it all.

A gorgeous, punk rocker boyfriend who is crazy about her, hip and fabulously funky parents who encourage, support and are always there for her and a musical talent that is on the verge of taking her places she could never have imagined.

But, all that changes when one morning, Mia's family (including her younger brother Teddy), decide to brave the ice and visit family friends they haven't seen in a while. 

Before they can actually make proper headway, everything Mia knows and loves disappears in the car accident that takes place within a matter of moments.

Mia, however, is left in a strange sort of limbo and as we witness the previous events and the events that take place afterward, it becomes clear that Mia has one important choice to make.

Will she stay or will she go?

I have wanted to read this book for the longest time now.

Usually, I tend to ignore a book when there is so much hype surrounding it, but somehow this one seemed as if it would be worth the effort. Still, it did take me a good couple of years before I actually got around to this book, but I can say that I'm glad I finally did.

I do have to admit that I do, however, wish that I didn't read this book at the same time that I was reading Forbidden, because, for me, the reading experience of Forbidden eclipsed my experience of reading If I Stay by a mile and a half.

But, that's not to say I didn't love this novel.  Because I did. 

As a huge lover of music, I often and very easily gravitate towards novels that incorporate music as a major theme throughout the book, and as someone who tends to especially have a special fondness for classical music (yes, I'm a certified classical music nerd), this one definitely seemed right up my alley.

And Gayle Forman certainly has a way with interweaving and threading music throughout the novel, doesn't she? 

For all this novel's simplicity, there was something so starkly beautiful about the novel, that I couldn't help but fall in love with Gayle's writing. And although I'm a huge fan of lyrical and descriptive prose, this book has taught me that not every book needs to be written in compellingly poetic writing in order to be beautiful.

The main reason that the book gets a 4 star rating instead of a 5 star one is that it took me quite a while before I could actually really connect with Mia.

Granted, I was incredibly horrified by what happened in the accident, but her " at first numbed" response to the wreck and the fact that she saw the remains of her parents was at first very jarring to me.  I guess, the fact that as a naturally emotive (ok, ok, overly emotional then) person, my immediate response would be, well the exact opposite of hers. 

Of course, once I actually started understanding the reason why, I became more engaged with her story and found myself absolutely rooting for her. I was incredibly sympathetic towards her and often found myself thinking that I wouldn't blame her if she actually chose to go.

As she witnesses her friends, family and boyfriend's reactions and pleas for her to stay, you almost can't help but feel how overwhelmed Mia must be at the mere thought of trying to make such a life-altering decision.

As a character, her story became one that I quickly empathised with and even though I found myself supporting the obvious choice that she wants to make, I eventually also started rooting for the talented musician who still has something and someone to live for.

I loved Mia's boyfriend Adam and her best friend Kim, and thought that their characterisations were a fabulous enhancement in a novel that was seeping with heart-wrenching emotion.

As a rule, flash backs in fiction novels are not a favourite with me, but Gayle's writing becomes so engaging throughout the novel, that I actually really found myself enjoying the format in which this novel was written as well.

I'm really glad that I have finally gotten around to reading this and will definitely be looking out for Where She Went, the sequel, which will, interestingly enough, be written from Adam's point of view.

Go out and get If I Stay if you haven't. It's worth the read.

My rating:
4/5 stars

8 comments:

La Coccinelle said...

I think I'm the odd man out on this book. Everybody seems to love it. I hated it. I found it boring, overly gory (I nearly threw up from the accident scene), and I just couldn't connect to any of the characters. I usually don't mind flashbacks, but in this case I found them annoying. The main crux of the novel is whether Mia will stay or go, and I felt that the constant jumping back in time didn't allow me to get emotionally attached to what was going on in the present.

To each his/her own, I guess. Thanks for the review!

brandileigh2003 said...

This one was a great book, and beautifully written, I have only read it pretty recently as well.
Thanks for the review.

Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

Thanks for the great review! I think this one might be a little too intense for me though.

Jan von Harz said...

Another beautiful review. I was especially taken with your comments about the main character. I love books that are mostly character driven so this one definitely appeals to me.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

I totally understand what you mean about not connecting with Mia straight away - I experienced that too. Overall I loved this book though, and I loved the use of music throughout it. I'm reading Revolution right now, which is similar in it's use of music. I think you'd love that one too. :)

Jenny said...

I've been hearing a lot about this book but I haven't gotten to it yet. Good to know you found it hard to connect with Mia in the beginning that way if it happens to me I'll know I'm not the only one! Thanks for the review:)

jewelknits said...

I think that this is why, when I pick up a book that's utterly fantastic, I let the other books fall by the wayside. It's so unfair to compare two books when one of them is so provocative and thought-provoking that you're still thinking of it days after you put it down. This one sounds as though it would be a great read for my Not So Bebe Girl Autumn, though!

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries

Aisle B said...

The cover is chilling, especially since the limbo state is suggested yet at the same time I can't shake the feeling that she's looking at her soul escaping from her grasp.

Adding this one to the infinite list of TBR.