My rating: 4 of 5 stars to Gayle Forman‘s If I Stay, the first of a two-book series and recently made motion picture. I first stumbled across this book when I saw the movie promo last year, and I recall thinking “oh, that looks like a great story.” I had just finished reading JoJo Moyes “Me Before You” series and felt they’d be similar in story and character. I went on my merry way, happily choosing from the physical books on my own bookshelf or my electronic digital subscriptions. (I always need to have 15 to 20 books on hand so it’s like a surprise when I choose a new book each time) And then, one day, while waiting for the dryer to finish in my building’s laundry room, I perused the small library next door (it’s awesome, my building shares books all the time and I constantly find new things to read!), and this book was sitting on the shelf. I grabbed it, tossed it in the laundry basket and well, went on with my day… but yesterday I needed to choose a new book and landed on this one, as I need to read it before I watch the movie perhaps this weekend. And it was an AMAZING choice!
This is the hardest part to write in the review, as I’m not sure where to begin. This book was about so many things, so many, many things. I’ll keep it simple:
Mia is a beautiful, caring, intelligent and warm seventeen-year-old in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, sharing her days with her grandparents, parents, younger brother, best friend, boyfriend and mentor. She’s an accomplished cello prodigy nearing graduation with a choice in her soon-to-be future: move to NY for Julliard or stay closer to her boyfriend who needs to remain in Oregon. The thing is… Mia is the teenager we’d all love to meet and be around; she’s just amazing as is her family and everything else around her. And you know the cliff is coming, as you’ve read the book jacket cover and know there’s a terrible accident. But then it happens when you least expect it — and everything changes. Mia is somehow separated from her body and she watches as she’s rushed to the hospital for surgery. As she sleeps in a deep coma, her separated self wanders the hospital halls to learn what else happened in the accident (no spoilers here, so I won’t say who was with her when it occurred, nor what happened to anyone else). One by one, her remaining friends and family visit her bedside, possibly to say goodbye given her grave condition, and as each person sits near her, Mia’s separated self tells readers who they are, how they met, exploring key moments in her life… you fall deep into this tragedy as Mia must make her own choice: to stay or go — but it’s not about moving to NY anymore, it’s about whether she will stay alive or go [die].
1. Writing: It’s simple. It’s direct. It’s evocative. It’s endearing. It’s thought-provoking. You won’t be able to put it down.
2. Characters: The entire story takes place over one day’s events, but through the story-telling, Mia recounts how she knows each person over her 17 years… and every person is wonderful and stunning and real. I want to be a part of this group.
3. Emotions: You will feel a lot. You will want to know what happens beyond the last few words of the final chapter. Good thing there is a book 2, but your imagination will think a lot about what could have been.
Too short and I wanted more? (~235 pages)
The only reason I didn’t give this a 5 of 5 stars is because I felt like it should have gone on longer… I want to know more about her struggle to decide if she stays or goes… to know how each person feels other than thru her eyes and ears. Maybe it will come in book 2, but as its own unit, I wanted more.
This is what I call a “contained” book. The story could be read on its own, or it could have sequels and prequels. Your emotions will be contained by the bounds of what you’ve learned in its 235 pages, and you will walk away from it as a changed person. Not in any magnificent way, but in a subtle way… one where you think about your own life and how you’d make a choice of staying or going, assuming you were in a similar situation as hers. This book makes you think for a few minutes, hours or days… and you won’t forget it. Contained because you’ll experience a journey in the time you read it, put it down, and after you’re on to the next book, it’ll feel like the impact was contained to just those few days where the pages were in your hands and the words in your dreams… but far into the future, it will pop back in your head as you wonder how you would have handled it.