Review: “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman

if_i_stay_gayle_forman_book_cover.jpgThe USA Today quote on the cover of this novel reads “Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.”

I think that’s a horrible thing to say.

This book is a thousand times better than the Twilight books. It is better written, has a better plot, and has a heroine who you don’t want to throttle every two seconds.

However, like Twilight, it is about death.

After a tragic car accident on a snowy Oregon road that leaves her mother, father, and younger brother dead, seventeen-year-old     Mia alone survives. She watches as the paramedics take her comatose body to the hospital, but is powerless to communicate with     anyone around her. She stands by helplessly as friends and loved ones visit her, begging her to stay alive. One of them is her boyfriend, Adam, and as Mia’s life hangs in the balance, she tells us about their love story.

He is a punk rock musician with dreams of making it big with his band; she is a classical cellist who just got into Julliard. In the beginning, they struggled to understand one another, but now Adam knows he couldn’t possibly go on without her.

Mia realizes it is ultimately her choice: stay for the people who love her, or go and rejoin her family.

This story was a heartbreaking read. Part of the reason for this is because the author does such a fantastic job of introducing us to Mia’s family. Their dynamic is hilarious and relatable, and then suddenly they’re gone. You know that going in, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting. It doesn’t help that Forman’s depiction of Mia’s consciousness awaking is truly haunting:

“…there was so much noise. A symphony of grinding, a chorus of popping, an aria of exploding, and finally, the sad clapping of hard metal cutting into soft trees. Then it went quiet, except for this: Beethoven’s Cello Sonata no. 3, still playing. The car radio somehow still attached to a battery and so Beethoven is broadcasting into the once-again tranquil February morning.”

Mia trudges through the snow, finding first her father’s eviscerated body, then her mother’s, and then herself. Her denial is palpable as she is rushed off to the hospital.

From there, we meet several of Mia’s remaining family members, as well as her best friend Kim and boyfriend Adam. Mia’s narrative switches back and forth between her present and her past. The juxtaposition of her life before and her life immediately after the accident might seem jarring, but Forman’s graceful prose lead you through. Her writing is made more beautiful by the musical language and metaphors she employs, which can be found woven in througout the novel. The love story, while it is the novel’s main focus, does not detract from Mia’s other relationships or seem like a cliche teenage fling. Mia and Adam truly love one another and it is evident. In the end, Adam is the one who convinces Mia to stay.

This was a relatively quick read, as the plot moves along rapidly even though we dive into Mia’s past so often. It is also a short book, and it felt like it ended too soon. Luckily there is a sequel entitled Where She Went that ties up any loose ends.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to others! It is definitely on the NYT Bestseller list for a reason!

Favorite moments:
“I shouldn’t have to care. I shouldn’t have to work this hard. I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard.”

“Seventeen is an inconvenient time to be in love.”

“All relationships are tough. Just like with music, sometimes you have harmony and other times you have cacophony.”

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