Book Reviews

If I Stay (Gayle Forman)

If you were trapped in a coma after a tragic accident that left your entire family – mother, father and little brother – dead – would you fight for life or sink away slowly into death’s embrace?

Built upon flashbacks, the book is an amazing gem, beautifully written, a song for life on every page.
I cried so much for the girl that lost her loving, quirky, musical parents and I cried for the life I thought she will choose to leave behind. Her teen love Adam, a punk rockstar in the making, finds that showing her what she would miss if she goes is the key to keep Mia from leaving.

Mia is your average teenager with a love for playing the cello. Her family background features a former punk-star dad who gets “tamed” by the family life he builds with one of his former groupies, her punk mom who shows her tough side during a friend’s funeral and her little brother who is already following her dad’s footsteps in becoming a great drummer.
Even if she feels like she does not fully fit in with her family due to her classical music sense, you can feel that she is loved and accepted and encourage to develop more.

ifistayheaderDuring a cold and snowy winter day, her family decides to take a trip out to visit some of their friends and get into a tragic accident when a lorry pushes over them instantly killing her mother and her father, leaving her in a bad state (“train wreck” they call it) and her brother in a precarious state.
As she is being rushed to the hospital, she finds herself in an Out Of Body Experience where she can witness what’s going on around her but without being able to feel any of the crash pain.
As she “haunts” the hospital hallways, she meets with her gentle grandparents who both talk to her, her life long friend Kim and her crazy mother, her extended family and Adam, her crush and first love.
Not being part of the family, he is denied entry, but with perseverance and youthful bashfulness, he gets in and manages to make the move that will bring her back: playing her Yo-Yo Ma

Final Score: 4/5
Favorite Part: Where Mia talks with her father and asks him whether it was his father (her grandfather) that pushed him into dropping his punk act and becoming more settled – a school teacher of English Literature. He replies that it wasn’t his father, not directly. It was watching him how he was a father to him that taught him how to be a father to her and her brother.
Basically – you learn all your parenting skills from your own parents and you will strive to be as good as they were.
Least Favorite Part: The moment she applied for Julliard, she should have told him. I understand why she didn’t – afraid that her applying to a school in New York and him staying in Portland will cause a wedge in their relationship. It caused it either way.

The Gallery

As this book was made into a movie with Chloe Moretz I have managed to find the most romantic and representative stills in the following gallery:

An Interview with Gayle Forman

Q: You started your career as a journalist and your first book is a travelogue about going around the world. Is YA literature a departure for you?

Gayle Forman: Actually, it’s more of a homecoming. My first writing job was at Seventeen, where I spent five years on staff and as a contributor reporting the magazine’s social-issues stories. I loved writing for teens then because—contrary to popular opinion—they really care about serious issues (from child soldiers in Africa to kids embroiled in the drug war here) and the engage in their reading with such passion. So, now that I’m writing young-adult literature, it feels like I’ve come full circle.

Q: This book explores some serious themes. Why is this a book for kids and not adults?

GF: It’s a book for kids precisely because it explores serious themes. Teenagers are grappling with choices about life and love as much as adults, so why shouldn’t their reading reflect that? I don’t set out to write YA. It just seems like I’m drawn to stories about young people. That said, I think If I Stay is for adults, too. I love the idea of teens reading this book and then handing it off to their parents.

Q: Many key characters are serious musicians, and songs are referenced throughout the book. Are you a musician?

GF: No. Except for piano lessons when I was a kid and a brief spate of guitar playing in my teens, I’ve never played an instrument. I am, however, a huge music fan. And my husband is a musician; he was playing in a punk band when we met, so I’ve spent a lot of my life ensconced in that scene. I seem drawn to writing about musicians, though I’ve never been all that interested in the cello until Mia popped into my head.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

GF: Music. Oregon. People I have loved. And unfortunately, the book is inspired by a real-life tragedy that happened several years ago.

Q: This is a book about death, but it’s not depressing. Why is that?

GF: Maybe because it’s really about the power of love—of family, friends, music—and therefore it ultimately affirms life.

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