Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book 67: If I Stay

Most of the YA I read tends to be fantasy/sci-fi or dystopian with the exception of Rainbow Rowell, and she's different because I'd already read her adult novel Attachments when I discovered that she had more novels available in the YA section.  This genre focus in YA is probably one of the reasons I've never gotten around to John Green.  Even though I have seen nothing but favorable reviews for If I Stay, it took the movie preview to convince me to actually read it.  And wow, this was so powerful.  The thing is I even knew how it ended, having read enough reviews of this novel, and the companion novel.  Despite this, I was crying by the end of this book, and I rarely cry.  I figured anything powerful enough to make me that emotional even with previous knowledge deserved a five star rating on Goodreads and CBR.

Mia, the novel's 17 year old narrator, faces a life altering decision in this novel, having to decide whether she wants to stay and live or let go and die.  The story begins with a snow day in Oregon, inspiring an impromptu family trip.  En route to friends, Mia, her little brother Teddy and her parents are involved in a car accident.  Her parents are dead on site, Teddy is taken to a nearby hospital where those exact friends work while Mia is flown to a major hospital in Portland.  Though in a coma, a part of Mia is able to walk around the hospital and observe everything, including her family and friends gathered in the waiting room.  As she faces her current situation, she reflects on her life, her parents, her boyfriend Adam and her love of music.  Shortly before the accident, she even auditioned for Julliard and her boyfriend's band is becoming rather successful.  Music has always been an important part of her life, and her parents are musical as well, though Mia was a bit of a rebel when she developed an interest in classical music and the cello while the rest of her family and loved ones are rockers.  Though she felt the common teenage anxiety about belonging, her family was loving and supportive.  Now Mia's condition is critical but she quickly realizes that whatever happens is her choice, and whether she wants to continue living without such a critical part of her life and whether Adam and the music are enough to keep her.

The premise sounds so simple and could easily become trite, but Forman does a great job of making these characters come alive, and really showing what Mia has lost while also demonstrating what she has to live for.  While Adam plays a big role in that, Forman doesn't simply make it a choice about family vs. boyfriend.  Mia's music and her potential are such important facets of her life which I really appreciated.  I just hope the movie is able to capture the novel, which absolutely earns the emotional reactions readers might have.


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