Title/Author: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Publisher/Year: Speak (imprint of Penguin) 2009
Where I Got It: Borders--with the 40% off coupon!
Why I read it: It had been on my TBR list but after hanging out with Melanie and having her highly recommend it, I decided to bump it up.
Rating: 5 stars. I read it in 4 hours because I couldn't will myself to put it down. Enough said.
Live can change in a moment--a single moment and everything that you once knew as your life has vanished and is replaced by a new reality. Mia, a high school senior and talented cellist, finds herself in one these moments and faces an impossible choice between leaving it all behind or forging a new life out of the pieces that are left behind. It's either life or death. Literally.
WOW. I finished this book feeling a myriad of emotions. My boyfriend looked over to ask me how it was as he heard me close the book, in the signature way I do upon finishing a book, and saw me sitting there with tears streaming down my face. He started to ask about it and I just started mumbling incoherent things and slammed the book on the table and kept saying, "Wow. Just wow" and "I'm never going to freaking be able to wait until April to get my hands on the next book." This book was pretty powerful for me.
I need to first point out that if you see the paperback copy of this book and notice that there is a blurb by USA Today saying "Will appeal to fans of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight"---make sure you ignore this. Apparently whoever wrote this blurb either read the wrong book or was all hopped up on something. Just saying. Yes, there is a romantic element to this book, but I did not see any sparkly vampires or Taylor Lautner-esque werewolves roaming the pages of this book. Aside from the romantic aspect, which is a part of many books, I could not really grasp that correlation. So please, I beg you to listen to ME and not USA Today. While we are on the topic of the romantic element, it is a sweet romance that isn't annoying or over the top. I loved their relationship. It makes you love "love" and appreciate it in the rawest of moments.
If I Stay is emotionally gripping and will genuinely move you. I think that it is realistic nature of the tragedy that gets to you because we've all either experienced something similar or have seen it on the news. It's one of those truly tragic stories that you know could happen to you--and that is frightening. I'm such a worrier and think about death too much anyways because of grief that I have experienced in my own life so this one hit me hard. Nobody wants to start thinking about losing loved ones but this book certainly elicits strong enough emotions to carry over into that kind of thinking. It felt authentic and real rather than contrived like the author was playing puppeteer to your heartstrings.
Gayle Forman wasted NO time in delivering the blow. It took me off guard like any tragedy does in real life--one moment life is just rolling on and BAM. When everything happened I said, outloud, "Well, SHIT." I don't know if I said it to my boyfriend or just to myself outloud but I couldn't keep it in but from that moment until I finished this book four hours later, I felt completely invested in the life of Mia and her family. I felt like I was a part of this tragedy and being in Mia's head was no easier. I kept asking myself what I would do. I couldn't come up with a clear answer even having dealt with situations were I had to keep on trucking through life without someone.
I thought Forman did an excellent job balancing the present with memories from the past and learning more about her family, friends and Adam made it all the harder. I felt the weight and the importance of Mia's decision. I love when an author makes me feel so connected to characters! This isn't a book where things are happening over a span of time. It's kind of slow-moving but this makes sense and I never found myself bored at all despite the fact that the present takes place in a span of 24 hours. I won't say much about the ending but I'm going to cry, scream and kick to get my hands on an ARC of the next book so I don't have to wait until April 2011. There is just no way I can do that.
My final thought: Gayle Forman has created an emotionally stirring novel that will leave you contemplating life, love and those moments that matter. There is much beauty alongside the sadness of loss and the complexity of grief; the glimmer of hope and beauty is what keeps you from having a complete mental breakdown while reading this book. It's that real. If you are an emotional person like myself or have experienced loss, you'll need to break out the box of tissues. Make sure it's the extra soft kind.
Discussion: For those of you who have read it, what would you choose?
--Also posted on my personal blog The Perpetual Page-Turner