Saturday, November 21, 2009

Book Review of "If I Stay"

I finally got around to reading this one!
Mia is a cellist, and secretly, she wonders if her rock-band family and rocker boyfriend Adam are ashamed of her. Even though they all love each other, she doesn't feel like she fits. She's never been sure why Adam fell in love with her or how he can stand her quiet, classical self, when he has a whole group of rocker chicks falling over him. But Mia isn't really sure she wants to go to Julliard, either, despite her amazing audition. Where does Mia belong?
On a day when Mia is ready to relax with her family and forget about her worries for a while, disaster strikes. The pickup truck hit them at 60 miles an hour. Mia climbs out of the ditch to find her parents dead. When she goes in search of her little brother Teddy, she doesn't find him--instead she finds her own body. Broken. Dying in the ditch. Now as nurses and doctors struggle to save Mia's life, it occurs to her that she has a choice. Does she want to stay? What would happen if she simply let it all go? Where does she belong?
This was a very well done book. Everything was so real, from motivation, to the family dynamic, to the many minor characters in the book. Even the accident felt real--not cliched like so many accidents in books. There are so many details and life humor that make the story rich. I love Mia's family--they reminded me of my own. And you really fall in love with all the characters. Willow, Nurse Ramirez, Kim, even the rocker Brooke Vega. Also Adam. He's such a vivid character with all his rocker clothes. You feel as if all these people have their own stories, and theirs just overlaps Mia's in places. Very cool that way.

As for the shifts between past and present, I think those were done well, and there's good pacing. There are times when the story switches to Mia's memories that I could have put it down; but it only takes a moment for each new scene to grab your attention. I also loved how Mia's decision between staying in Oregon with Adam and moving to NY for Julliard perfectly mirrored her decision to live or die. It was really the same thing to her that whole time, so she had a lot to grapple with. A few things did bother me. I was never quite sure of the real depth or level of Adam and Mia's relationship.

This seemed like the one thing that got glossed over a little. I was never quite sure what their issue was. Probably just that his band was gaining fame and Mia didn't feel as needed anymore, while Julliard was calling to her, but she wasn't sure if she should go. I never got a sense of them together as a couple. It was hard to understand her conflict about Adam.

The other thing that bothered me was the ending. I never felt like Mia actually made a decision. Or, let me rephrase that; I'm not sure why she decides what she does. No spoilers from me: I just wish that climax scene had been more fully realized.

But all in all, this was a great book. Short, contemplative, piercing, and sweet all at once. I'm not a big reader of "dead girl books" but I still believe this one set a standard. Great read and I'll be looking for more of Gayle Foreman in the future. 4.5 stars.

This review was previously posted on Goodreads. To view my other books and reviews, you can check out my account here.

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