Friday, 30 January 2009

If I Stay / Gayle Forman

Summary - 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.

Review - I have had a continuous stream of tears running down my cheeks for the last few hours. Between Jenny Downham (Before I Die) and Gayle Foreman, I have cried a lifetime of tears this past week. My house mate asked 'why do you put yourself through it?' I had to think about it, for a fraction of a second, before I answered 'because every word is worth it'.

Simply, this book wouldn't be the emotional cruncher it is without some superb writing from Forman. Without giving too much away, she makes all characters in this story extremely real. It starts off as many YA stories do, some froth and a lot of great dialogue between Mia and her family. Once that chapter is finished, the tone completely changes. Mia and her family are involved in an accident and Mia's trapped in limbo, witnessing the lives of those who care for her, and those she cares for in return, without the power to do anything but watch.

Forman walks the line between Mia's recollections and the present with ease. Too often a book similar in intent would be manipulative, but I didn't feel this at all. I felt Forman's love for each one of these people, as if they were her own. That Mia's loss, was her loss. The empathy that courses through this book is both inspiring and astounding.

Despite the somewhat dark subject matter this is a story of hope, life affirmation and all that it brings. The relationship between Mia and Adam is honest, they might be in love but they have real problems and they aren't all solved with a snap of their fingers. Kim is an amazing best friend, sarcastic and strong, her appearances in the book are bold and bursting with love. I particularly love an incident in the playground that was the inception of the girl's friendship. Mia's parents made a huge impression on me, they sounded familiar, as if I had met them but avoiding anything resembling a cliche. The hospital staff, particularly Nurse Ramirez with her biting wisdom and infinite care, also made an impression on me. How much did she really know? Mia's grandparents melted my heart, I have always heard how outliving one's child is the worst thing imaginable but these two transcend the situation with some honesty and hope. I was shocked by how quickly this story and girl sucked me in - as the tears would attest.

Music has a large role in this book but it's never clunky or awkward. Mia is somewhat of a cello prodigy and her boyfriend, Adam fronts a band called the Shooting Star. Her father is a former punk and her mother was one of those feminist rock chicks, both parents still retain their rockin' sensibilities. When reading the acknowledgements I wasn't surprised to see that Forman had been listening to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's 'Falling Slowly' (from the movie Once) while writing this novel, you could feel the song's influence throughout each page. I think that could be the best comparison for this novel, it is to the written word as Falling Slowly is to your ears - emotive, heartwarming, stirring, powerful and memorable.

This novel is about love. Love for your family and the family you make for yourself. The strength to follow your passion, to love your parents unconditionally and they for you, to have belief in people, to embrace music and life. It is also about choice, when no two options are easy, what would you do?

I ask: how long will it take for you to get your hands on this book?

Published: April 2009
Format: Paperback, 224 pages
Publisher: Random House
Origin: USA
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Gayle Forman's website
Gayle Forman's blog

** Summit Picture (yes, the home of Twilight) has purchased the film rights to this novel.


LisaMay said...

So jealous! I desperately want to read this one! It's nice to have a good cry every now and again as well :)

Lenore said...

I am going to come back and read your whole review after I read it. I just want to go into it as pure as possible :)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

O.M.G. First off, I really do like that his band is called Shooting Stars. It's kind of fate that I read this book now. LOL But no, it sounds amazing. I like your answer for why you put yourself through reading these's so true. It's often very very much worth it.

Yay for film rights! I'm quite excited. Ahh! Why is it coming out in April?? Not too long now I suppose. LOL

Great review,

robin_titan said...

I loved this book!

Film right?!!! YAY!! while I read the book I thought to myself "this would make a great movie" it would be sooo sad but great, I can't wait!!! ooh but it's the twilight people ...hmm it might not be good then :(

YA Book Realm said...

This book seems great, nothing like I have ever read before. Although it does remind me of Elsewhere (which I haven't read)

As to answering your question most probably May to early June (I'm hoping) considering my library takes a while to process.

Definitely want to read this now that there is a movie coming out for it. Exciting!

prophecygirl said...

Well, I just pre-ordered my copy! It's out here (UK) in May, and I can't wait to read it! Thanks for the great review :)

Alea said...

Ok, after reading the book, I ask what is up with this cover. It totally doesn't work for me. I think the US version is fine but this one? Weird.

Lenore said...

I'm with Alea - what's up with that cover?! And I loved this novel (as you know).

Alea said...

It sort of strikes me as a religious awakening or something, i guess it's a little angel-y too maybe?

Anonymous said...

It's A great book. I applaud Gayle Forman. An excellent mother and an excellent friend. Yes I know her. She is one of my best friends. I used to be in a band-Oswald 5-0 and we hung out all the time. I was very close to the people that Gayle based the car crashed people in the book. Robert and Denise. I was mortified when they were killed. Yet, I am also completely accelerated that her book is being made into a movie by the twilight director!

CcG said...

Great review. I havent got around to reading this one but I have wanted to for quite a while!