Friday, February 20, 2015

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 2nd, 2009
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.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.
"I liked the book, but it doesn't stand out in any way in the sea of other books."

To be quite frank, this book disappointed me. It's not that I enjoyed it. I just went into it expecting a lot more. I read this around the same time as I read Just One Day, and they were my first Gayle Forman books. I've heard people gushing about how amazing her books are and how amazing her writing is. So it isn't hard to say that I had fairly high expectations. But while many readers find her as a staple author, similar to that of Sarah Dessen, I don't know if I do. Her writing doesn't stick with me the way other authors' works and words do.

As I mentioned, I enjoyed If I Stay, but it didn't wow me. It didn't really impact me or leave a huge impression. It felt more like I was skimming it, even though I read every word. Certainly, Mia's story is compelling. It's tragic and sad. It's a beautiful story, or it should be. But it didn't do anything for me. I loved learning about Mia and her connection to/with music. As a violinist (ex-violinist?), I could understand her love, even though I've never felt that much of a connection myself. This is not something you see in most YA books and even in most books generally, so I found it to be beautiful and extremely well written.

I liked the exploration of Mia's relationship with her family, especially her brother, and her friends. They were semi-compelling for me. I could see why others might have enjoyed this book a lot more, but again, nothing was particularly spectacular to me. Just meh. I did love Kim as a character, and she really stood out to me in this book. She felt fully formed, and she was interesting. In a sea of pretty forgettable characters (not all, but for the most part), she stuck out. I also found the pace to be really slow, and though the back and forth between past and present was interesting, it was also very jarring at times. It felt as if we were moving on to something else before the scene was already done.

Perhaps the biggest hindrance to my enjoyment of the book and the most disappointing aspect was Mia and Adam's relationship. To be quite honest, I didn't really feel their connection. There were small glimpses here or there where I could start to skim the surface of their relationship, but otherwise, it felt really empty. It felt awkward and at times one-sided, and it just irked me for some reason.

I can't say I hated the book, however. It just didn't really work for me, and it didn't wow me. There were scenes that I loved and scenes that I hated or winced about (Mia playing Adam like a cello? Awkward as heck, let me tell you). At the end of the day, I liked the book, but it doesn't stand out in any way in the sea of other books.
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