Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Review: If I Stay

Dear Blog,
Today I shall be rambling about If I Stay by Gayle Forman.  It is the most purest of awesome.

Summary (from Amazon.co.uk): Everybody has to make choices. Some might break you. For seventeen-year-old Mia, surrounded by a wonderful family, friends and a gorgeous boyfriend decisions might seem tough, but they're all about a future full of music and love, a future that's brimming with hope. But life can change in an instant. A cold February morning ...a snowy road ...and suddenly all of Mia's choices are gone. Except one. As alone as she'll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all. Gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, "If I Stay" will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you've lost - and all that might be.

Review: first things first.  This book is way too short.  I guess the short-ness is sort of fitting to the book, but it's one of those books you read reeeeeeeally sloooooowly so it doesn't end *wants sequel*.
The blurb gives away very little.  I mean, you know some sort of devastating accident happens.  But what exactly?  Maybe it's just me being thick but the blurb made me wander, "hmmm..."

It's a mix of Michael Morpurgo's Cool! (but for teenagers), because of the whole car-crash-coma theme and Elsewhere  by Gabrielle Zevin, because of the out-of-my-body-watching-my-nearest-and-dearest theme.  So I suppose it's probably similar to The Lovely Bones in that sense. But I wouldn't really know, because I've not read the book or seen the film (except the trailer).
Despite these many books I suppose you might compare If I Stay to, it feels wonderfully original.  And I think it's both better than Cool! and Elsewhere because it's longer than Cool and more happens than in Elsewhere.

The story is alive with music.  Mia, the protagonist, is a cello player, and her boyfriend Adam plays in an indie-rock band.  A reviewer on Amazon.co.uk said something along the lines of, "it was like reading a song," and I completely agree.   The writing is flowing and poetic and clear and realistic.  I felt like I too was stood with Mia, drifting around the hospital.

It's strange how in books like this one where there are flashbacks to the protagonists' old life, sometimes they can be fascinating and sometimes you can just think, "um, I just realised I don't care." .  I mean, we didn't buy If I Stay to read about  Mia's pre-accident life.  It's like the salad at the side of your plate.  Pleasant enough but not as good as your chips/meatballs/chicken/whatever that you originally wanted.  More often than not, we don't even eat the salad, save maybe the tomatoes and a few slices of cucumber. 
Before this gets too dragged down with metaphors, what I mean to say is: such talk about your past life is entertaining but not the highlight of the story.  But in If I Stay, it's just as fascinating as the main plot itself.

And the characters themselves?  Well, because of what happened to Mia's immediate family at the beginning of the book, I didn't feel like I knew them very well.  Her parents used to be punk rockers, I knew that much.  And now (or then I should say) her father wore bow ties.  But apart from that, they remained somewhat myserious.
Adam seemed like a cool-enough character.  I liked his relationship with Mia: it seemed nice without being too-good-to-be-true: not perfect because they both kept getting distracted by their music.  If ever I have a boyfriend, I should like to have the same relationship as Adam did with Mia.  Only minus the music-will-keep-us-apart element.  Anyway, enough of my daydreams.

Summary: short, but so veeeeeery good.  Probably my favourite of the books I've read while writing this blog (The Princess and the Captain doesn't  count because I first read it 3 years ago).  As good as Jinx, but I can't compare them.  Only that: they both deal with some pretty heavy issues.  So, yes.  If you haven't already, PLEASE READ IT NOW.  I think they should make it be slightly compulsory reading at school *nods*.
Rating: 5/5.


  1. This sounds so good! I've read my fair share of horrible accident books, but this sounds like it deals with it perfectly. And a short book is sometimes just what I need, to keep me from staying up until five in the morning reading an epic length novel because I just have to finish one more chapter... :)

  2. I loved this book too, and I enjoyed your beautifully written review. I agree that this story is both heartrending and life-affirming, and I love what you said about it being alive with music -- so true!

  3. I loved this book too.
    They are making a sequel called Where She Went and it's from Adam's point of view 3 years later.
    Could be interesting :S


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