A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.
It’s no secret that I’ve been eye-humping Gayle Forman’s Just One Day. It’s also no secret that I spend way too much money on books to pay full price plus delivery for a new release as often as I want to. So my compromise was to get the cheaper (used) If I Stay to whet my appetite for Gayle until I get around to reading her newer novel.
I knew from some reviews and the synopsis that this would be a unique reading experience. Mia’s family suffers a tragic car accident, which kills her parents on contact and throws her brother and Mia herself into fatal comas. Mia finds herself outside of her body, silently observing as she’s rushed to the hospital and her remaining family and friends gather in the ICU where she’s being treated. The question quickly becomes whether or not she should give up and join her lost family, or pull through and find a way to live without them. That’s pretty heavy stuff for a YA novel, and this one attempts to pull it off in under 200 pages. Whether it works or not is a matter of opinion, as any perusal of its GoodReads page will tell you. But since this is my review, the question is, Did it work for me?
It’s quickly obvious that Forman is a very talented writer. She created some really likeable characters and gave us some really touching scenes. My main problem with it, however, is that she did all this through flashbacks. Most of this novel felt like info-dumping as we’re told Mia’s whole life story in memories. I know, without a doubt, that I could have loved so many of the people in her life if I had really gotten to meet them, to experience them with Mia, not through Mia. Her parents and her boyfriend especially, I would have loved if the story were told differently.
Despite that one major complaint, I did rather enjoy If I Stay. As I already said, the writing is great. The pages call to be turned, and the ending – while somewhat predictable – was satisfying and calls readers back for the sequel. (Which I will definitely be reading.) Forman does a passable job with creating an entire life for Mia in such few pages. I just wish she hadn’t tried. This is one book that I feel would have benefitted from being a hundred pages longer, by not starting mere pages before the big accident. The emotional punches of Mia’s memories would have been so much more powerful if we had a bit more of a pre-formed attachment to the people in them.
I guess what this comes down to is whether or not I’d recommend If I Stay. I would. It’s such a short book, so even if you don’t fall in love with it you’re not losing much time to it. It’s a few years old so if money is an issue, you can find it cheap used. It’s fresh and original, and if you’re looking for a quick read that can at least hold your interest, this book delivers.
If I Stay - 3 out of 5 stars