Author: Gayle Forman
Release Date: April 6, 2010
The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics...
The happy opening scene of If I Stay - filled with pancakes and banter and a lovingly flawed family - is made even more poignant by the sense of foreboding that shadows it. It seems strange to say I liked this book; as with The Lovely Bones, I was affected and touched by the emotional story, but to say I liked it feels inadequate somehow.
Mia, “fragile and tough, quiet and kick-ass," narrates the book in a present-tense style that interweaves flashbacks with current-day scenes. Flashbacks are tricky creatures, prone to tedium; here, they not only expand readers' understanding of the characters, but also feel integral to the plot, such as it is. The complexities of Mia's family members - both blood-related and chosen - are explored with a compassion that inevitably evokes tears and, occasionally, laughter. Mia’s soft-spoken grandfather and her best friend Kim, who is as quietly tough as Mia, will break your heart. I guarantee it. And Adam. Mia's boyfriend should be a cliché - the good-looking, effortlessly cool rocker-musician who goes for the shy cellist - but their relationship feels earnest, mature, and sometimes challenging.
The side-themes of finding one’s identity and growing up, explored through Mia's parents, are as thought-provoking as the core story. Life and death, love and loss, rock and classical music - these dichotomies are touched on through Mia's flashbacks in a way that emphasizes the choice she must make between two un-choosable alternatives: to stay or go. If I Stay epitomizes the phrase “a life in the balance.” With raw emotion, Mia equally weighs both of her options before the scales are tipped in one direction.
The most profound books make readers consider their own lives, and Mia's journey can't help but incite questions about one's choices, both tiny and potentially life-changing. If I Stay is not a book to be read halfheartedly. It is a consuming and haunting story that warrants all the tears readers have no doubt shed over its pages.
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