May 18, 2012

Review: If I Stay

By: Gayle Forman
Published: April 2009 by Dutton
Format: Paperback, 234 pages
First Reviewed: May 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

What would you do if you had to choose?

A critically acclaimed novel that will change the way you look at life, love, and family.
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. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

Rating: 4/5

This book is a perfect example of that no matter what I think about the characters or the writing or the plot pacing, sometimes a book can hit you so hard emotionally that it takes over your overall view. This book is also a perfect example of how the market tries to get you to by books by comparing them to other completely different works. *eye roll* I remember not picking this up many, many times at the store because of the "will appeal to Twilight fans" nonsense. It wasn't until people kept recommending it to me that I finally picked it up. And I'm so glad I did.

Yes, this takes place in a hospital for the majority of the book, however, there are many other scenes that I felt really grasped the overall setting. There was a dark tone draped over the entire read, as though I was in a dream-like state, which I felt was perfect.

For the most part, I really tapped into these characters. But I'll be honest when I say it took me a while to connect with Mia. Once I did, though, there was great emotional connection. With the other characters, I wanted a bit more from them. I felt the immediate family was done very well, but some of the others were a little unrealistic and/or over-the-top at times. Or even a bit inconsistent. There were some distinct personalities among the nurses and staff, though, which was good. I just wanted more from some of those closer to Mia. But Forman made me fall in love with Mia and her family, especially Teddy, and that was the most important aspect for me.

In the beginning, it took me a while to grasp Forman's style. Honestly, I can't really describe my issues with it. I guess it was just hard for me to get into. Also, I felt the dialogue was very forced and/or unrealistic. Some characters sounded too old for their age and some instances just weren't natural. But Forman had a great way of developing true emotion. She made me feel throughout this, to the point where I didn't care anymore about the actual writing.

This is a hard, emotional ride. You're thrown into Mia's world immediately, grasping her family connection, falling in love with her little brother, and learning of her personal loves. Then when everything collapses, you're thrust into a sense of panic and sadness and curiosity. Forman does a great job showing what goes on at the hospital all while tapping into Mia's memories without it feeling choppy. However, my main problem lies with the intensity of this. We got some in bits--and it was fantastic when there--but I expected a bit more when it came to the decision Mia had to make. Yes, the emotion was good and I felt it, like I said, but I just wanted more with Mia's decision and conflicting feelings. There were also some unrealistic scenarios, though I'll avoid mentioning what to avoid spoilers, and it seemed like Mia's "recovery" with certain elements was far too rushed.

I almost rated this three stars (maybe even two-point-five rounded up). Because in all seriousness, it was just a decent read for me. But...this book did something to me. It made me feel. It made me think about my family and friends, and especially my twin sister. It made me think about what's important, what I love, and what I'd do for some I love. Even now, as I'm typing this, I can feel my heart fluttering from the amount of emotion this story has given me. Not the writing, not the characters, not the actual plot, but the overall meaning of this story.

And one last note: Marketers, stop being idiots and comparing books like this to books like Twilight. Come on...

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