Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

"If you stay, I'll do whatever you want... I'll let you go. If you stay."

If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman

Published by Dutton Juvenille
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Release Date: April 2nd, 2009
Pages: 212 (Kindle Edition)
More Books By Gayle Forman: Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1)

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Synopsis: 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.


Teisha's Review

First, I would like to say that this is my very first book review for Girl Writes Reviews, and that makes me incredibly happy and excited!  I'm happy that I am finally able to do what I love--discuss books with other book lovers.  And, I'm excited to complete more reviews in the future.

Second, I want to say that, looking at the cover for If I Stay, I have absolutely no idea where USA Today came up with the "Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight" idea, but they could not be more incorrect.  When I was reading If I Stay, neither Edward Cullen, Bella Swan, vampires nor werewolves entered my mind.  And, frankly, that review simply does not do this book any justice.  Don't get me wrong: I'm not hating on the Twilight series.  I read all of those books in high school and I was obsessed.  But, it bothers me when really great books are compared to other mediocre-but-popular books.


I decided to give If I Stay a shot because of all the recent buzz it's been getting in the news since the trailer for the movie, starring Chloe Grace Moretz, was released.  But, I actually didn't watch the trailer until after I read the book.  (I have this rule that I like to create the world in my mind first, rather than have the movie do that for me.  For example, when I read The Scorch Trials now, I see Dylan O'Brien as Thomas because I've seen The Maze Runner trailer and that bothers me.  Do you get what I'm saying?  Am I the only person who suffers from this?  I'm genuinely curious about this now.  Talk to me in the comments if you've read Katniss as Jennifer Lawrence, Tris as Shailene Woodley, Harry as Daniel Radcliffe, etc.)

I've read the book and I've seen the trailer, and I am incredibly excited for the attention this franchise is about to receive.  If I Stay was absolutely enthralling to me, and it deserves credit where credit is due.   

Here are the five reasons why I gave If I Stay 5 out of 5 stars:




★ Plot

The plot that Gayle Forman has crafted with If I Stay is one of the most intriguing contemporary YA storylines that I have come across in quite some time.  I love this plot because it is incredibly thought-provoking for a YA novel.  

It is my opinion that John Green writes some of the best YA novels because his stories are remarkably riveting.  They make young people think about 'the bigger picture', about the more important questions in life.  And, Forman does the exact same thing with If I Stay, leaving readers wondering: Is there an after-life?  Is there an in-between state of life and death?  If so, are we able to choose whether we stay or go?  Is living a choice or does destiny guide our fates?  Is free will just and illusion?  Have our lives already been planned out by some omniscient power?  


I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I do know that a book that doesn't force me to ask these kinds of questions, that doesn't leave me thinking about it even after I've closed it--that's not really the kind of book that I want to read.



★ Format

If I Stay is written in the first person and comes from Mia's perspective.  

What I enjoyed about the format of the novel was the method of storytelling--Mia would talk about what was happening around her in the present, and she would reflect on her past.


Have you ever heard of the idea that our lives flash before our eyes when we die?  Well, Mia isn't dead in this book, but she is on the brink.  So, the book is written so that she is able to mull over her life and ultimately decide if she wants to continue living or if she is ready to pass on.  This is an incredibly tough decision for her to make because she has much incentive to let go, but many reasons to stay as well.  


Overall, I love this in-between state that Mia exists in and that the story comes from.  Mia is able to do something that many of us never have the chance or courage to do--she can take a step back, evaluate her life and decide whether or not to move forward. 




★ Characters

I really loved the characters of this novel.  Forman writes them all so vividly that they literally come alive for readers.  

Mia's family of rock musicians is fun, loving, and caring.  


Her tough-love best friend Kim is probably my favorite character because she reminds me of myself in so many ways.  And, I love the story of the formation of their relationship.  


And then there's Adam, her boyfriend who she is intensely in love with, and who loves her right back.  


All of these people have an effect on Mia's decision to stay, to keep fighting for her life, or to let go. 


These characters will leave you laughing in one moment and crying in the next.




★ Realistic

Another aspect of this book that captivated me was how real it is.   Some may say that it has fantastical elements because of the whole in-between life and death aspect, but I don't think that's unrealistic at all.

The characters in this book are realistic, exhibiting raw emotions of first love, familial love, grief and loss.  


To me, this story could be the story of your average American family.   This could be my family.  Tragedy could strike any of us at any moment, and If I Stay examines how one person handles her life tragedy.  Or rather, how she decides whether or not she will live through it.  


The reality of this novel is what makes it so heart wrenching.


In the Author's Note, she writes that the idea for this story came from a true event that happened to someone close to her.




★ Breaks Boundaries

Earlier, I talked about how this novel is thought-provoking.  Well, that is what makes it so ground-breaking.  

If I Stay makes us think about religion, the after-life and life itself in new and different ways.  Throughout the entire time I was reading this book, I couldn't help thinking "what if this is actually possible?".  And, while I read it, I was in the hospital with my aunt who just recently passed away.  I like to think that she was kind of like Mia then, in that in-between state, watching her family gathered around her, encouraging her and loving her.



***

I leave you with the trailer for If I Stay which will hit theaters August 22nd.



I highly recommend this beautiful novel.

Talk to me in the comments:  Have you read If I Stay?   If you haven't, do you plan to?  Will you see the movie?


Talk to ya soon!


--Teisha

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