In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...
A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.
Details: If I Stay by Gayle Forman, 199 pages, 4.01 stars on Goodreads
Why I Picked This Up: Initially, I didn't really want to read this. The synopsis made it sound like just another dead-girl story that would be packed with flashbacks and grief and depressing prose. So the first couple times I saw this in blog posts, I skimmed the reviews and decided to pass on it, but then each time it came up again, the review was fabulous. Finally, I figured that if so many people seemed to like it, then it really couldn't be that bad, right? And so I belatedly placed it on my to-read list with mixed expectations.
Characters: This book had its strong points, but I don't think the characters are one of them. Mia was okay - I cared about her and wanted her to be happy, but I never felt like I really got to know her. She was just this quiet, shy girl who was really into classical music and her cello. One good thing about her, though, was that while this book was relatively short at just under two hundred pages, you still got to see a lot of Mia's struggle with her decision about whether to stay, or die.
Her boyfriend, this punk rocker, was an interesting touch - you wouldn't really think of someone falling in love with her musical opposite, but the flashbacks of their relationship were romantic and well-written. Something I don't like that much about Adam, however, was that he didn't feel quite developed, either. He was painted as this rocker who cursed every couple words but didn't seem to have much of a personality beyond that. I did like his love for Mia - it was sweet.
My main complaint when it comes to characters is Mia's little brother. He's six, but definitely sounds about five years older. There are so many lines where he says things that no little kid would ever, ever, ever say, and that struck me as odd and kind of jarred me out of the story in the beginning.
Plot: The plot was what I was concerned about when I first read the synopsis. It's hard to pull of a "healing" story, so I was concerned that the grief might be overdone. But to my surprise, this wasn't quite a "healing" or "coming to terms" story but something different. It was about finding your own inner strength to stay alive, to anchor on to the things you have so you can recover from what you've lost.
There were flashbacks, but they were beautifully written and layered so that each worked perfectly with the story. There definitely wasn't "flashback overdose" here, showing Forman's prowess as a writer. I also loved that while this wasn't the sort of book that would make you dissolve into sobs, there were moments that made you tear up, so that even when you weren't physically reacting, you still felt as heartbroken as Mia.
Overall: Despite some scenes that were a little weird (like the sex scene, which you have to admit was rather odd), If I Stay had a compelling plot. This isn't the kind of book where you spend the whole time thinking that you've read a book just like this before. The characters could have been better, but you could still emphasize with them and feel emotion. In the end, this is a great book that I would recommend to anyone who loves books that can make you feel without making you sob.
First Line: Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. And in a way, I suppose that's true.
Plot - 3/5
Characters - 3/5
Writing - 4/5
Impact - 3/5
Inability to put it down - 3/5
Total - 64% = B-