Published by Dutton Juvenile on April 2, 2009
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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 family and friends 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 one 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.
I feel like just about everyone under the sun has read this book already, and it’s been on my radar for a while now. With the movie coming out this summer, I knew I really wanted to finally get to this book before seeing the movie. I think the premise is interesting, but to be honest, I’m not sure it’s a book I would have ever picked up without the recommendations of fellow bloggers and/or the catalyst of the movie. While I think the cover is cute, it’s not attention-grabbing for me, and the jacket copy doesn’t pull me in.
First of all, I have to say that I did really enjoy this book. BUT, it did not live up to expectations for me. The way some people have talked about it, it seemed like this would be a life-changing read or something. While reading the book I was really into it and read it in one sitting. But I wasn’t blown away by the writing or the characters or the setting or the plot or really any aspect of the novel. I think more than anything else, I just really wanted to know what choice she would make. Ultimately there were a few things that really bothered me about this book:
1. The perspective felt too narrow.
I think because the story is about such an isolated incident and is told entirely from Mia’s point of view, the perspective feels extremely limited. I just found it frustrating to be so limited to Mia’s thoughts when so many of the other characters were interesting too. I also found it really difficult to understand other characters. Mia describes her relationships – with her mom, her dad, her brother, her grandparents, her best friend, her boyfriend Adam – but it all feels very one-sided. At times it was hard to imagine how some of these relationships formed.
2. The flashbacks just made me more interested in the story of Mia’s life pre-accident.
I also wanted so much more information about Mia’s life before the accident takes place. I know there is a sequel of sorts but I really think If I Stay would have been so much better if it incorporated more. This kind of goes hand-in-hand with my previous point, but I just feel like I only knew enough information about Mia and her life to realize how much I didn’t know. It’s kind of irritating when the plot of a book only makes you want to know a related but untold plot.
3. There wasn’t a whole lot to the story.
Basically the entire plot revolves around Mia’s accident and the immediate fall-out from that. There are flashbacks to Mia’s life before the accident, but they are told as random memories, not as a continuous secondary plot line. When I finished the book, it felt like not a whole lot had happened, and the telling of the book’s few events wasn’t particularly profound for me, either.
There were a couple things I did really love about the book, one being the music. Adam is in a rock band and Mia is a classical musician (she plays the cello). I love classical music, and especially the cello, and it’s not often a subject that’s frequently portrayed in young adult books. It was really interesting to see the conflicts as well as the parallels between Mia and Adam, particularly in terms of their approaches to music. I like that on the surface, classical and rock music seem so different, but at the heart of it all music is music, and this common ground is what initially draws Mia and Adam together.
The message was also one of my favourite parts of the book. If I Stay really focuses on the power of love; Mia’s hindsight is a catalyst for her to examine her relationships with loved ones. She spends most of the book reflecting on what it means to love, and her ultimate choice is essentially influenced by the conclusions she has drawn about love. That all sounds a little mushy but it is really a lovely consideration of familial, romantic, and platonic love.
Overall, If I Stay was a good book and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t good enough to convince me to pick up number two, Where She Went, right away. The premise was really interesting – and while the synopsis is vague, I believe this book is best read with a limited knowledge of what it’s about. Forman is a fantastic writer, but I wish she had incorporated more into the story to make it more well-rounded.