Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)
Description: Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones. Stay true to her first love-music-even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? Then, one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

Stats: Young Adult, 201 pages, First Published by Dutton Juvenile, 2009. 

My Rating: 5 Stars

“Please Mia," he implores. "Don't make me write a song.” 

Mia loves her Cello, she loves her crazy rock-talk family, and she loves her boyfriend. She goes to classical music camp every summer and is always spending time with her best friend. Of course nothing's perfect, she sometimes feels she doesn't belong, in her family unit or at her boyfriends loud crowded gigs. She doesn't know where's she's going or what will happen if she does get accepted to Juilliard. And then, suddenly, her life is a car crash. Now she has to decide if her life is something she wants to return to now that everything has changed. The choice is her's to make. Does she accept her death or fight to keep living?

This is my second book this month that is about a car crash resulting in awful medical happenings. Needless to say I'm taking this lesson of motor vehicular safety to heart and just never getting in a car ever again. Still, despite my new found fear of the open road, I'm incredibly glad that I've finally read this. I have this terrible habit of getting scared away from certain books. Normally, it's a result of numerous fellow reviewers mentioning how many times they cried and things like "emotional distress" or "heart-wrenching". Honestly guys, I was expecting a lot worse. I had pretty much built this up in my head to be the ultimate tear jerker. I had tissues ready. I had hot chocolate at my disposal and a playlist of cat videos to lift my mood. But I somehow made it through without the breakdown I expected.

If I Stay is a book about reflection just as much as it is about choices. We are introduced to Mia at what may very well be the end of the road and get to know her through her remembering the past. For me the focus of the book was more about family and music then it was just about death and dying. It's hard to get sad with all of these happy remembrances, even if they are bitter-sweet. It's this sort of feeling that I as a reader can latch onto. This gave the book a seriousness as well as a levity. We weren't just learning about Mia, we are seeing her work through the value of the events she has experienced and how they play a role in her choice now.

As someone who has somewhat recently spent time in drab hospital rooms panicked over a loved one I connected with what Mia's family was going through. I could also connect with Mia and her own emotional distress. Overall, I felt like this book is a champion for taking on all that sad, emotional drama, and making it into something hopeful, even in it's darkest moments. I also appreciated how the medical professionals were treated in this book. So often they get glossed over and pushed to the sidelines as people unimportant to the story at hand, but the way that the actual workings of a hospital came into play was wonderful to see.

Everything just had so much life to it. From the characters and their relationships to smaller details like the settings and feel of a family home. There's mourning and hope, there's annoyance and love. I was completely captivated. This is the sort of book you can read through the night and not notice a second has pasted.

“Neither sleet nor rain nor a half inch of snow will compel me to dress like a lumberjack.” 

I do have a very important warning to anyone interested in reading If I Stay.  If I Stay has a sequel called Where She Went that handles the aftermath of this book. Do not look into book two before you have read book one. I know for some readers (myself included) it's common to check out a series as a whole or read reviews of future books to make sure it's worth the trip. I'm pleading, do not even look into it. Don't read the description of Where She Went, don't read reviews for Where She Went, don't even go anywhere near Where She Went because it will completely and absolutely alter the intended reading experience. This is the sort of book you need to watch unfold and having things spoiled for you is not a good thing!

This is a amazing book! I can understand why everyone is so incredibly insistent on recommending it to everyone they know. If you are a YA reader looking for a book with emotional weight and great characters this is definitely something you will enjoy.

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