If I Stay by Gayle Forman 

2016-09-25-19.35.26.jpg.jpg(Photo by Carla Rennick)

Summary (from goodreads.com): In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make.

I always claim to be the kind of reader who prefers lighthearted escapist literature, but here I am following my review of Speak with the heartwrenching If I Stay. While I don’t often seek out emotional or angst-ridden novels, I’m discovering that they can be infused with a certain soul-expanding beauty that just cannot be found in other genres. Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, which I am probably the last of my circle of YA-obsessed acquaintances to read, is full of such beauty. What surprised me, however, is that it is not only the obvious, life-or-death scenes which bring the emotions so close to the surface. Honestly, I got more choked up over Mia’s love and devotion to classical music than I did over her relationship with Adam. And the combination of both? That really got to me. Forman uses Mia’s passions–her family, her best friend, her cello–to introduce the reader to Mia’s relationship with Adam and to amplify its emotional impact.

The other thing that really struck me is the fact that, even though the entire premise of the narrative–that a person could exist outside their comatose body and make the drawn-out decision to survive or not–could be seen as a spiritual or supernatural construct, Mia’s thoughts and memories are so solidly grounded in the living world that I have to consider this a realistic piece of fiction. Mia’s character, even in it’s in-between state, is too human to be called simply a “ghost” or a “soul.” The topics Forman manages to cover–from the day-to-day problem of feeling like an outsider among your peers and family to the painful topics of death and loss–are extremely relevant and relatable. I would definitely recommend this book to teens. Besides excellent prose and characterization, it offers the chance to consider some very intimidating issues within the safe environment of fiction.

Favorite line: “Then, in third grade, I’d wandered over to the cello in music class—it looked almost human to me. It looked like if you played it, it would tell you secrets, so I started playing.”

Rating: 5/5


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