Thursday, 5 April 2012

Review: If I Stay, Gayle Forman

If I Stay

Gayle Forman

Doubleday (2009)

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.

If I Stay came highly recommended, but even though I had seen a number of positive reviews, I had never actually realised what the book what about until I started reading. When I did start reading, I didn't stop until I got to the end.

If I Stay is a short book, but a powerful and compelling one. The concept -- that Mia is essentially debating a choice between life and death -- had me hooked from the get go. Often I find flashbacks frustrating, but in this case they made the book, creating a balance between the present, in which life is seemingly suspended, and the past, which is full of life and all those ordinary (and not so ordinary) moments that make it all worthwhile. I also thought that the indecision Mia is facing in the more recent flashbacks, regarding her future and her relationship with Adam, added another interesting layer to the whole book.

I liked that Mia's choice was never a straightforward one, and that Forman doesn't really tip her hand with regards to what the outcome will be. There were a couple of teary moments for me: the last few pages were certainly heartwrenching, but there's also a moment earlier on between Mia and her grandfather that pushed me over the edge, too. Yet I didn't spend the whole book crying, or feeling depressed. There is a lot of happiness and vivacity to the novel that balances out the heartbreaking decision at the centre of it. The writing was spot on -- poignant when it needed to be, without being overly sappy or dramatic -- and I look forward to reading more of Forman's novels in the future.

(However, although I have Where She Went on my bookshelf currently, after the emotional rollercoaster of If I Stay, I couldn't move straight on to it, and had to pick something else up instead...)

Overall rating: 8.5/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

Although books don't normally remind me of songs, or vice versa, after finishing If I Stay I was reminded strongly of some of my favourite lyrics from one of my favourite Eddie Vedder songs, Guaranteed:

Don't come closer or I'll have to go
Holding me like gravity are places that pull
If ever there was someone to keep me at home
It would be you

1 comment:

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