Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Book Review: "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman

If I Stay Gayle Forman
Published: April 6, 2010
ISBN: 9780142415436
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Source: Personal Copy (June Book Club Selection)

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, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time. 

My Thoughts:
I will come clean...I cry at everything.  Sad movies, happy movies, books, commercials featuring pets, and--worst of all--preschool graduations.  Seriously.  It is not a feat to make me cry.

This book did not make me cry.

I'd say I have stone-cold heart, but since I cry at everything else, I don't see how that can be true.  I know I was supposed to cry...everyone I know who has read this book said I would cry and, believe me, Forman tried her best to squeeze tears out of me, but it just didn't happen.

I get that the premise--a girl whose entire family is killed in a car accident and her out-of-body self has to decide if she wants to lie or die--is tough.  I'm not heartless, after all.  But I just was never able to get emotionally invested in this book.  After I finished I tried to figure out why this book left me so cold, and I think three things come into play.

First of all, only 2 things happen in this book.  Mia is in a car accident and then she decides whether she'll live or die.  Yes, there are some other minor incidents of activity (the biggest being her boyfriend and musician friends try to break into the ICU), but as far as plot goes, it is just those 2 things and a lot of introspection.  I was definitely left wanting more plot and, strangely, more introspection.

And introspection is my second issue--in that it isn't.  Introspection and flashbacks are not the same thing.  I would say a good 3/4 of this book is told through flashbacks, but the flashbacks are really just recounting of things past--there is never really a tie to what happened back then to the decision Mia needs to make now.  I found this very frustrating because I felt that all these flashbacks were the literary equivalent of treading water and I wanted this book to go somewhere.

Finally, I didn't think that there was a single original character in this book.  Every character--the gifted but shy Mia, her musician boyfriend, her ex-rocker parents, her outspoken best friend--were just the usual stock characters that are commonly found in young adult literature.  I don't mean to bash YA fiction by saying this--I've read some fantastic books where writers have taken the "usual" characters and transformed them--but I just didn't feel that it worked here.  I had seen all these characters before, several times, and nothing they did or said really interested me at this point.  In fact, the only character that had any real stock in was Mia's friend, Kim--not because she was unique, but because she was at least the most interesting of the cliches.

Look, I know people LOVE this book and I'm not saying they are wrong.  I read a lot and I critique what I read and maybe I'm cynical and the heart on my sleeve may be covered by several layers of literary gortex at this point.  But I can say that, ultimately, this one just didn't have the teeth to cut through to my emotions.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

If I Stay
by Gayle Forman

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