Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Series: If I Stay #1
Published by Speak
Published on: April 2 2009
Genres: Young Adult
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Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.
I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.
Stay, he says.
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.
If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.
This is the first time I’ve reread If I Stay . . . and I’m happy to report that after five years, it’s still a fantastic book.
It’s amazing to me how, in just a few short pages, Forman is able to make you care about the Hall family. REALLY care. REALLY feel it when Mia begins to watch from outside herself, as her life, her world, is completely destroyed.
My dad smiles and taps on his pipe. He started smoking one recently as part of this whole 1950s Father Knows Best retro kick he is on. He also wears bow ties. I am never quite clear on whether all this is sartorial or sardonic—Dad’s way of announcing that he used to be a punker but is now a middle-school English teacher, or if becoming a teacher has actually turned my dad into this genuine throwback. But I like the smell of the pipe tobacco. It is sweet and smoky, and reminds me of winters and woodstoves.
And just as Mia is never certain about which her father is being—sartorial or sardonic—I’m never certain on which Forman is being either. It’s been so long that I can’t remember what my first impression of this book was, but when I started reading this time, I was worried . . . worried that this older-and-wiser me was going to hate the book that I previously loved, b/c several times Mia and her parents come across as nothing more than pretentious hipsters, who are too damn cool for everyone, but as I continued reading, more and more insights into Mia’s perspective and preoccupation with her own (lack of) coolness were revealed, and instead of being irritating, in this one, singular situation it made sense.
Mia’s parents really are that cool. It’s not pretense. It’s not affectation. Her mother has moxie, her father is geektastic with a formerly punk twist, b/c he played drums for a punk band, not b/c he listened to it on the radio. Her seven year old brother has “verve,” and says things like:
“I’m gonna be eight in December. Then I’m a man and you’ll have to call me ‘Ted,'” Teddy reported.
And Mia . . . well, Mia plays cello.
Not that there’s anything wrong with playing the cello . . . but comparatively . . . it could give a teenager issues. Especially when her father makes jokes about Mia being switched at birth, b/c she doesn’t even look like the rest of her blonde-haired, blue-eyed family. AND b/c Teddy was born at a birthing center where a mix up was impossible—neither intended to be in any way hurtful to Mia, but come on . . . you remember what it was like . . . scrutinizing off-hand comments, psychoanalyzing conversations . . .
If I was the brunette counterpart of my Arian family, and my parents refused to let my kid brother be born in a hospital, I could definitely see myself wondering . . . if they were wondering . . .
The point is despite the inherent coolness of Mia’s family, it’s a real family, and Mia’s recounting of them is full of bittersweetly recognizable truths.
And in this story . . . one of those truths is that Mia has to decide if she will stay.
That decision is a painful process. I’m not going to lie, I sobbed audibly while reading this book. But Mia’s story is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking, as hopeful as it is bleak, and I would not give up getting to know Mia and her family for anything. This is one of the books that will stick with you for years.
So please . . . do yourself a favor and read it before going to see the movie when it comes out on Friday. You won’t regret it.
If I Stay series:
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