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Thursday, October 6, 2011

'If I Stay' by Gayle Forman

From the BLURB:

Just listen,' Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel. I open my eyes wide now. I sit up as much as I can. And I listen.
‘Stay,’ he says.

Everybody has to make choices.

Some might break you.

For seventeen-year-old Mia, surrounded by a wonderful family, friends and a gorgeous boyfriend decisions might seem tough, but they’re all about a future full of music and love, a future that’s brimming with hope.

But life can change in an instant.

A cold February morning . . . a snowy road . . . and suddenly all of Mia’s choices are gone. Except one.

As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.

Gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, If I Stay will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve lost - and all that might be.

Mia has a choice to make.

She has just been in a car accident that has killed her mother and father. Her little brother, Teddy, is struggling in another hospital somewhere, while Mia has been air-lifted to ICU.

Her friends and remaining family straggle through the hospital room. Her Gran and Gramps cry. Her best friend, Kim, is trying to stay positive. Her father’s band mates and best friends are praying and Mia’s first love, Adam, is begging her to stay.

Mia knows all of this, because while her body is bruised and battered lying prone in a hospital bed, Mia looks on. She thinks back on her life up to this point, and she sits in the waiting room with the people who love her.

But what is keeping her here? When she has nothing left to live for, what’s the point in staying?

Mia has a choice to make – a life or death decision.

‘If I Stay’ is the smash-hit contemporary young adult novel from Gayle Forman, which recently had a sequel released this year called ‘Where She Went’.

Yes, I have been ‘reading’ under a rock. I knew that ‘If I Stay’ was a best-selling, beloved YA novel released in 2009. I read the rave reviews and knew that there was a furore surrounding this incredible book’s sequel . . . still, I didn’t read it. I knew that this book packed a punch – that it was sadness through and through and to be honest, I just was never in the right head-space to get stuck into the novel. Until now. Don’t ask me what did it – I just decided I was ready to brave the emotional terrain and whip out the Kleenex.

Mia’s story really does start out sad . . . and get worse from there. The car accident is the plot-trigger, and everything that comes after is Mia weighing up and pros and cons of staying, or letting go. It’s a sad start, with plenty of emotional turmoil heaped throughout. But the novel is, surprisingly, not altogether depressing.

I should be in agony. And I’m not crying, either, even though I know that something unthinkable has just happened to my family. We are like Humpty Dumpty and all these king’s horses and all these king’s men cannot put us back together again.

While Mia’s ravaged body repairs itself in a cold hospital room, ghost-like Mia remembers her life to this point. She recalls her punk-rock parents and their dismay when Mia took up the cello and fell for Mozart. She remembers the birth of her little brother, Teddy, and all her brother’s funniest moments. She remembers how her best friend, Kim, saved her from herself by prodding her into music camp. But most of all, Mia remembers Adam. Adam, the beautiful and dishevelled older boy played in a rock band and inexplicably loved Mia – and how she loved him back.

The novel cuts between present-time and back-tracking memories; as Mia’s fetch-like form watches the nurses monitor her vital signs and doctors perform surgeries, she also recounts her memories in vivid detail.

I hear the nurse’s words again. I am running the show. Everyone is waiting on me.
I decide. I know this now.
And this terrifies me more than anything else that has happened today.

I did love the book, as I suspected I would. It’s partly because the story is duelling heartbreak, and uplift – as we see Mia come to the slow realization that life is beautiful, regardless of the pain. But also because Forman could have dragged Mia and the story down in a flowery writing style . . . when you’re discussing death and the meaning of life, it’s very easy to wax poetic and get too caught up in the meaningful, so that life gets lost amidst the prose. But Forman has deliberately shied away from sweeping declarations of life-affirming meaning – the prose is simple and powerful for its subtlety, and the real meaning of life is between the lines, in the flashbacks of Mia’s childhood. Perfection in simplicity.


1 comment:

  1. I have this in my TBR - even when I recently cleaned out my shelves I couldn't bring myself to put this in the "go" pile - I know I'm going to love it. I think the subject will be hard (dark books make my mood dark too), which is why I haven't read it yet...


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