Sunday, August 24, 2014

Book review: If I Stay - Gayle Forman

I've been wanting to do book reviews for a while, and I don't think I've ever done any. Which is completely ridiculous, considering how much I love books and how many I read. So, here I commence.

I just finished reading If I Stay by Gayle Forman. I didn't go into the book knowing a lot about it, which I like to do. And I was not disappointed! I really enjoyed it. It's not a book to read if you're in the mood for a happy story, that's for sure. It does have happy moments in it, but the story certainly isn't. (TFIOS, much?)

A brief summary: Mia is 18, in her final year of high school. During a snow day, her family decides to drive to their friends' place to spend the day with them. But the day turns out much differently than anyone would have imagined...

The story takes place over the span of 24 hours. The author uses flashbacks to draw out the story, and I felt that she used the method really effectively. They never felt forced, and always flowed very naturally, to the point where you hardly realize that it's a flashback. I thought that overall the story flowed really well. It's a shorter book, but because the author knew how to draw the story out, it doesn't feel like it lacks for information or details at all.

The previous edition cover. I think I almost like this one better.
I did like the characters in the book for the most part. The main character, Mia, is a very thoughtful teenager. She is a cellist, going to be attending Julliard after she graduates high school. Her life revolves around her family, her boyfriend Adam, her best friend Kim, and her musical career. She doesn't have much use for partying and staying out late, which is funny because her parents were in the music scene when she was growing up, and she was going to parties when she was a child. Her father was in a punk rock band for many years, and her boyfriend is in an up-and-coming band, as well. She just can't get away from music, it is steeped into every part of her life. It plays a considerable role in the book as well. I did enjoy the contrast between reserved and serious Mia, and her eccentric rocker parents. It's so reversed from what you usually see. The relationships in this book played out really well. It was definitely easy for me to connect to the characters.

A still of Chloe Grace Moretz, who plays Mia in the film adaptation.
One of the things that bothered me most about the book - there is a character that is never given a name! Mia's parents' friends have a baby, and the baby is always referred to that - "the baby!" It drove me crazy!! I mean, there are characters just mentioned in passing that play less of a role than this baby, and they got names! Why, Gayle Forman, why??

Overall, I would recommend this book if you're looking for a story that draws you in. I could probably connect with the story in a deeper way than a lot of people would, because of things that have happened to me and others close to me. (Trying not to be spoilery here!!) I will probably be thinking about this story for a few more days. The movie version came out on Friday and I am looking forward to seeing it.

Plot: original, very well paced
Emotions: you will feel them
Characters: mostly realistic and well-rounded

And for those who like to be prepared for these things (I appreciate a heads up, for sure!)

Language: moderate, as there are a few f-bombs and other choice words
Sex: one scene that's not explicit but there is a lot of stuff implied
Drugs/alcohol: social drinking, no drug use that I can recall
Spiritual content: Mia's grandma believes that loved ones who have passed on come back as angels (in the form of animals); the family attends a funeral at a church where the officiant talks about the deceased going to be with the Lord.

My overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars