Saturday, July 3, 2010

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman ★★★★★

If I Stay Description: 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.
(Source: Goodreads)

My Review: 5 of 5 stars
I admit it: I judge books by their covers. There, I said it. If it weren't for the cover of this edition, with the girl staring up into a blue-grey space, I'd have missed this book entirely. There is just something haunting and beautiful about the cover of the edition I read, and to me, it implies that the story within will be haunting and beautiful too.

Covers are important. This is the first impression that a potential reader has of your book, and so the cover must convey what you want it to, and communicate to a reader what your book may have to offer.
This cover makes me feel like the story inside will be playful and fun and it reminds me of birds, and spring and happiness. It's a lovely cover, but in my humble opinion, doesn't do well to represent the story. I've passed by this book, dozens of times with hardly a glance at the blue cover. But my eyes were instantly drawn to the haunted quality of the image on the edition that I bought.

My next cover related comment will pertain to the little "note" on this edition, which says, "Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT." --USA Today This too is somewhat misleading, because my initial thought was that it would indicate that there's a supernatural element to the story (vampires or werewolves, etc), but that's not the case. There is a quality of the story that is a bit paranormal, but not in the way that people would associate with Meyer's story. Rather, this comment is about the romance aspect of the story, but I feel like it would have been better left off altogether. I didn't even realize the quote was regarding Twilight when I bought the book, as there was a price sticker over almost all of it. I could see "Will appeal to fans of" and "A Today". So this thought is what occurred to me after reading the story and then removing the sticker.

I don't normally talk about the covers much in my reviews, but this one just has so much bearing on how the story can be seen, especially if one is inclined to determine by a cover if a book looks like it might be to their taste, that I wanted to talk about it.

After first cracking the book, and reading a little bit of it, I have to admit that I didn't think that the writing really warranted the praise lavished on it. The writing was simple, and direct, even somewhat vulgar, seeing as how much of the story pertains to the punk music scene, which is full of colorful language, but isn't exactly flowery. I read, waiting for the "achingly beautiful" parts to kick in, and was thinking that I'd be writing in my review about how, yes, it was sad, but I wouldn't exactly call the writing beautiful. And then I realized that it IS beautiful, in the unflowery, punk-rock and down-to-earth way that fit the story perfectly, and made my heart break for all that it represented.

I loved the way that Mia, the main character, showed us her life, and her family, and her world. Interspersed with "now" events were her memories, which showed so perfectly all that she no longer had due to an unfortunate accident. One minute everything is fine, and the next, everything is gone, and Mia has to decide if she wants to live in a world without the people she loves the most.

I loved the characters, and how they were all unique and true to themselves. I loved the way that they each represented a choice in how they wanted to live, and made that choice almost without effort. This seemed to contrast the decision that Mia has to make, and the difficulty and pain that it causes, both to her and her friends and loved ones. I could really identify with Mia's grandfather, who tells her that it's OK if she needs to let go even though he desperately wants her to stay, because I had a similar conversation with my grandmother when she was in the hospital a few years ago. It was incredibly hard to remember that feeling, reading this, but it was honest and true, and made sure that I understood the depth of Mia's family's love for her to want to let her be free of her pain.

Mia's boyfriend, Adam, was perfect. I almost don't want to talk about him. He is the kind of boyfriend that girls dream about: gorgeous, a little wild and dangerous and unpredictable, but sweet and honest and caring and sensitive too. His speech to Mia was so... raw and painful that I could barely see the page to read it. It's a good thing I was sitting up, or I'd have to wring this book out. Adam's request to Mia rivaled Wentworth's letter to Anne, and that is saying something.

This story was beautiful, achingly so, so it absolutely deserved the praise that it received. I was very surprised by this book, by it being so musically oriented, and how big of a roll that played in the lives of everyone in the story. I was surprised by the roughness of the story, but glad that it was written this way, because it more real than any poetic prose could offer. Life is ugly and dirty and unfair and mean, so why shouldn't a story about these things be the same way? I thought it was beautifully done, and can't recommend this book highly enough.

I'm off to call my parents and tell them I love them.

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  1. Great review, I love how detailed it is! And, I admit, covers are important to me too. I have read fantastic books with lame covers, but still, a good cover already gives you so much.

  2. I have this to read - and now I am even more excited!
    Great review!

  3. I read this a few weeks ago (thanks btw, your review bumped it up for me) and I absolutely loved it.

    Have you heard that she wrote a sequel? It's due out next April. It takes place 3 years later and is told from Adam's POV. She has a teaser tour going right now about it, and (although I was a little (lot) leery) it sounds really good!