Friday, November 27, 2009

If I Stay - Gayle Forman

Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Books, 2009 (Hardcover)
Length: 196 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Drama
Started:November 26, 2009
Finished: November 27, 2009

From the inside cover:
Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones. Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her friends and family behind?

Then, one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

This novel was hard to read for so many reasons, I outright cried through so many parts, and it takes an awful lot to make me cry about a book. It opens with Mia introducing her family: Mom, Dad, and 7-year-old brother Teddy. I immediately loved Mia's family: her mother is hip and sarcastic, her dad is an ex-punk rocker turned teacher, and her little brother worships her. It's a snow day where they live in Oregon, so they decide to hop in the car to visit one of Dad's old band mates, wife, and new baby. Car accident ensues and Mia finds herself in an out-of-body-experience where she can see and hear everything without feeling it. Her parents are dead immediately, while Teddy and herself are still alive. They are rushed to separate hospitals and Mia watches as all her relatives and friends gather in the waiting rooms.

The main idea in the novel of "Do I stay?" comes from a nurse that tells her grandparents as they watch over comatose Mia while out-of-body Mia flutters above, is that Mia is in complete control; that she can hear everything they say and ultimately she will decide whether to stay or go - to die and be with her family or wake up and continue with whatever kind of life awaits her after the accident. The novel is broken up between flashbacks Mia has of various incidents in her life: learning to play the cello, applying to Juilliard, the birth of her little brother, and meeting her best friend and boyfriend, with observations made by out-of-body Mia while she roams the hospital while deciding whether to stay or to go.

Before you start thinking this book is all doom and gloom, the flashbacks keep a much-needed dose of humour in the story. Anything in involving Mia's dad or his band mates is guaranteed to make you laugh. Aside from the whole concept of a person deciding whether to stay alive or not, there's a sub-plot about people transforming their lives for others, like Mia's dad finally learning to drive and quitting the band to become a teacher when he learns that he's about to have another child (Teddy). The novel really explores concepts of friends and family (I love how Mia adores her little brother), choices in general, and love. The scene with Mia's grandfather talking to her (comatose) in the hospital made me bawl because it was identical to what my mother told my grandmother when she was dying last summer.

If you can handle sad subjects like this, you'll be in for an amazingly powerful book.

Thoughts on the cover:
I included two covers because I much prefer the UK cover art over the US cover art (the blue one with the flower). I think I know what they were going for with the solitary flower against the blue background with the winter-withered tree, but it still seems so plain. The UK cover has a better colour palette in my opinion, the blue and crystal white with the little bit of purple, and the image of the girl is powerful since it symbolizes Mia in her out-of-body state in a flowing robe roaming around in a muted, almost heavenly realm.

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