Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tea Time: If I Stay

**Warning: Spoilers May Abound**

If I Stay, Gayle Foreman

On a day that started like any other,

Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she'll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving. (source:goodreads)

Cover-I'm kind of indifferent to this cover. If I saw it in the bookstore, I'd probably walk right by it with maybe a curious glance, but I wouldn't actually stop to look at the book and consider it further. The reason for this is mostly that it doesn't stand out. There's a girl. That's it. The close-up shot really doesn't give the mind anywhere to go; is it contemporary, paranormal, dystopian, historical fiction, etc? It's simplicity, in this case, really doesn't do it any favor just because it's too simple.

Narrative-This book is told from the first-person POV of Mia. She's our main character, the girl we follow through both the present and the past as she tries to make the titled decision of whether she should stay and live, or leave and die.

I admit that I liked Mia's voice. It was very pained and uncertain in the present, and with every memory that was recounted there was a wishful-ness for the joy of the past to come back. That wishful-ness was filled with longing, and also the knowledge that it's gone, and that it'll never be back. The emotions were very strong.

What I also loved was the way in which the story was told: every chapter (with the exception of the first one/two-ish) begins in the present: what's happening in the now, in the hospital. Then, it flips to the past: some memory that applies to that moment, as if the present is reminding her of the things she's lost. That kind of back and forth worked well to showcase how difficult this decision is, since there isn't a single bad or extremely painful memory, but whenever Mia thinks of the future, she can only think of how empty it'll be.

Overall: the story was told in a strong voice with equally strong emotions.

Plot-I thought the premise of this book was extremely interesting: a young girl with a bright future ahead of her has to make the decision to live or die while she lies in a coma in a hospital bed. In the end, her decision comes down to two things: die, because she has no life without her family and she'd rather try to follow them into the afterlife; OR she can live because she has the amazing love of a boy named Adam, who would do anything for her to stay.

Honestly? It's a tough choice. Heck, it's not something you can read and then think, "Well, obviously I'm going to live." There really is no right answer, and by the end of the book I found myself thinking that I agreed with Mia and the choice she wanted to make.

In between that decision I loved seeing both the progression of her love for Adam in the flashbacks, and also the antics happening in the present. Her entire family shows up, and a few of them even have words that they share only with her. Adam and her best friend try a number of strange and silly things just to get the chance to see her in her hospital room (since they weren't close family, nobody would let them through). These antics and the actions of her family serve as the reminder of what she still has, whereas the flashbacks were simply examples of what she lost. It was an interesting way to move the story forward, and admittedly i found myself lost within the pages; when the last words came, I was wholly unprepared because I hadn't even noticed how far through the book I'd already gotten.

Definitely thought-provoking, which is something I always appreciate in a book.

Characters-While I loved the characters as a whole (they're all so slightly quirky in their own ways, and their love for Mia was astonishing), I couldn't help but feel they were all a bit...flat. Granted, this was only after I'd thought about the book for a few days after putting it down. Then again, I feel like the best thoughts about a book come after they've simmered for awhile, so let me explain:

Mia had the absolute perfect life. She's smart, has a great boyfriend, a loving and supporting family that she always got along with, an awesome best friend, and she's insanely talented music-wise which is why she's most likely going to get into Julliard.

Adam is good-looking, also musically talented, and is the boy that everybody always wants to be around. Plus, his band is literally about to make it big.

Mia's parents: those rock and roll teenagers who had kids, but never quite outgrew their glory days; yet, they're not those embarrassing parents; they're the parents that were awesome because they made the rock and roll glory days look cool even though they're in their forties. They're supportive of their children, full of love, and are always able to banter (which, come on, is totally fun).

Honestly, this is the kind of life I would love, simply because there's so much love in it. Looking at it from a bookish perspective, though? It's too perfect. It's too cookie-cutter cardboard. Yeah, there were some problems, but they rarely popped up (besides conflict between Adam and Mia's best friend, which got taken care of pretty quickly once there was an understanding).

So I mean...I loved the characters, I really did. But they really didn't have any faults, which makes me hesitate on really giving them a gushing review, because they weren't 3-D enough for me.

So, I liked the book. I really did. It was a light, relaxing, and cute read, and I have its sequel (WHERE SHE WENT) sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I honestly really want to know what happens next, given the aftermath for Mia of the car crash.

At the same time, like I said, once I really thought about it after finishing the entire thing, I couldn't help but realize that the characters are the book's weakest part, so matter how awesome and adorable and lovable they all are.

Final Answer: 3.5 / 5

Tweet It:

@Rae_Slater reviews IF I STAY @gayleforeman (Click to Tweet)

IF I STAY @gayleforeman is thought-provoking, but see why the characters fell a bit flat for @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

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