BOOK REVIEW: If I Stay by Gayle Forman ( @gayleforman ) #mustread #books #amreading
A critically acclaimed novel that will change the way you look at life, love, and family.
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, Mia’s story will stay with you for a long, long time.
I have to begin this review by saying no matter what I say about this book, my review cannot do it justice. No review could, in my opinion, do this book justice. The only way one could understand how truly earth-shatteringly-beautiful this story is would be to read it. It must be the envy of authors everywhere who have read it and cherished by every reader whose tears have splashed the pages (or their kindle) as they read it. It’s not often I want to re-read a book, but this is one of them. This is one of those books that make you want to chase down other books to find one as great, knowing you likely will not, and one of those books that will make all other books pale in comparison for a long time. This book is simply stunning, and has fallen onto my list of all time favorite novels.
I also want to say what a surprise this novel was, which I suppose speaks a lot about me, too, and perhaps not in a good way. I read this book because it was lent to me by my brother-in-law’s girlfriend. She gushed over it, but in the past her and I have no seemed to have similar tastes in books. I don’t think she’d gotten through any books I’ve lent to her, and I can attest the reverse is true as well. This book was the exception. I received it thinking, “It can’t be THAT good, not as good as she thinks.” It was in fact a bit snobby of me, as I was thinking that it’s harder to please another writer than someone who only reads, so that even if she loved it, even if it was a great story, in all likelihood I wouldn’t think it was very well written.
Add to this that the cover said, “Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer’s TWILIGHT,” and while I actually DID enjoy the story of the Twilight series, I didn’t see this comment as a selling point. It actually cemented my thought that the book wouldn’t be well written, and made me fear it might be a rip off. Now, I’m not one to judge books on similarity, mainly because it seems if you have a book with vampires in it, you’re accused of ripping of Twilight. You know, because no one else wrote about vampires before Stephenie Meyer came along. So you aren’t original like she was if you write about vampires. To be honest, a lot of books I have seen compared to Twilight I’ve always thought . . . well, not really. Not at all, actually. But people like to compare similarities to whatever is hot, so it happens. HOWEVER when I saw that comment on the BOOK COVER (which by the way is ALSO gorgeous!) I thought for sure I was about to read a copy-cat.
Boy was I wrong. The only reason this book might appeal to fans of twilight is because it’s paranormal, but not in a supernatural creature kind of way and more in a The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold kind of way (as a comparison on the back cover mentioned). The other reason might be because this book EASILY will appeal to teens and adults alike. However, there are no vampires in this book and the writing is simply-yet-exquisite. Really, this book is in a different class than Twilight, and that is not a dig at Twilight; it’s just that IF I STAY is really more of a masterpiece than a book. IF I STAY is more than epic. It creates a new standard.
WHAT I LIKED
So now that I’ve gushed and gushed without really telling you anything at all, let me tell you what I liked about this novel. And it’s not a long list of things, really. It’s ONE thing. One major thing.
I cannot remember the last time I’ve ever read such an emotional novel. Perhaps I never have. Perhaps I never will again. But I laughed and I cried and cheered characters on the whole way. If this book does not make you cry, then you may want to visit a cardiologist to make sure your heart is functioning properly.
I also have to commend the writing. The author really did a breathtaking job, writing things in original ways without detracting from the story itself. The details were unique and made the story real, but never overwhelmed the narrative.
I loved most of the characters in the story, all of whom were SO fully developed and interesting and unique and many of them quirky as well, which I love. The story is creatively set up, so that there is as much (if not more) backstory than plot, and in any other book this would have been a criticism, but in this story it was just creative genius and it worked, REALLY worked. It was almost like a compilation of “slices of life” that came together to create a bigger emotional backbone to the story.
IF I STAY tugged at all the right emotions at all the right times. Some lines deliver a punch not because of what they say, but because of when it’s said and what preceded it.
Buy this book to experience the emotion alone, because as much as this story centers around the topic of death, it’s these emotions that we feel that mean we are alive. And I think when you read the book, you might discover that theme there as well, especially toward the end.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Not a lot to criticize on this title, and what I do have to say is minor, but here it goes. There was 1 missing word in the book. Really, this isn’t much of a criticism because every author I know (myself included) would give ANYTHING for only one proofreading error to slip by unnoticed!
I didn’t really understand Mia playing the air cello when she realized her parents had died. In the end, I understood her emotional distance while narrating (which also made the emotions in the story more poignant and allowed them to belong to the reader) but it just seemed like an odd reaction to have while overlooking the scene of her parents’ death.
I didn’t like the scene where the main character, Mia, plays Adam like a cello or he plays her like a guitar. That was just weird. I guess it was supposed to be a unique romantic moment, but I was just too busy thinking HOW WEIRD to enjoy it. Also, I didn’t really love Mia. I didn’t hate her, I guess just in some ways the attempts to make her look “deep” just came across as making her look whiny and clingy.
I want to point out that each of my criticisms were VERY small things that only interrupted my thoughts for a few moments out of the hours I spent reading this story. In fact, I only mentioned them to make the point that, even when I am being my most critical, there is STILL next to nothing to dislike about this book. In the balance of good against bad, we’re talking about an elephant against a grain of sand.
It’s also worth noting that there is some strong language in this book (mostly use of the word shit). This doesn’t bother me personally, but I mention it as some people like to know that about books that are marketed to Young Adults (this book is recommended for age 14+). I almost think adults would appreciate it even more, though! However, whatever age you are, you should give this book a try!
This is one of the best books I have EVER read. Some of the industry reviews on this novel called the book “poignant” “touching” “memorable” “dynamic” “powerful” “brutal” “heartbreaking” “masterful” “intensely moving” and “achingly beautiful“.
I couldn’t agree more. And yet at the same time, none of those words, nor my own, do this book justice.
Rebecca Hamilton writes Paranormal Fantasy, Gothic Horror, and Literary Fiction. She is represented by the ever-more-amazing Rossano Trentin of TZLA.
To purchase her books, please visit Paranormal Fantasy Books.