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If I Stay by Gayle Forman - Book Review

I read If I Stay a few months back, but just couldn’t seem to write a review for it. The bibliosphere is exploding with glowing praise for this one and I wasn’t certain what more I could add. After all, Summit Pictures and Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke have already (even before it was published) signed on to immortalize If I Stay in Hollywood style.

Synopsis: Talented Mia and her great family are in a horrendous car accident and she narrates from an omniscient comatose pedestal. As she lingers, she hears discussions about herself and even wanders the hospital halls while trying to decide her own fate. Various family members and friends visit Mia, offering reflective glimpses into her own life.

If I Stay is a nice book. It’s touching. The ending is the best kind of ending, full of resolution and life affirmations. Telling us that to live is to suffer, but that holding just one hand might be worth the suffering. I shed the obligatory tear; my heartstrings were firmly pulled. I read it one night while my desire to know protagonist Mia’s decision kept the plot moving. Even though lots of people die and the theme could wander into darkness quite easily, author Forman keeps that from happening with quirky little bits to keep the reader from the edge. Ultimately, If I Stay is a story about living.

But… (there it is… that qualifier) I kept missing something as I was reading. Much like Mia’s limbo, this reader couldn’t quite buy into the emotional severity of the situation. It was as if Ms. Forman took great pains to keep Mia from expressing the depth of her grief. Even in her comatose state, I expected some anger, some screaming. It was all too sweet, too soothing. For a story so influenced by music, I’d assign the simple lullaby - rock-a-bye baby, where the bough breaks but the baby simply comes down, cradle and all. Adam is the character that gets to catapult the real, the raw, emotion (I always fall in love with charming male characters anyway). But I hated having to wait clear until the end to see that emotion.

If I Stay is written well. It kept me reading without effort. It’s a good book that will please many. It’s probably going to make good money and maybe even win some awards. Because I couldn’t conjure a genuine review, this flat, comatose one will have to suffice.

Recommended for middle grade teens, especially girls and those interested in realistic fiction told from an unusual viewpoint.

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From Harper Collins Childrens: Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in such publications as Jane, Seventeen, Glamour, Elle, and The New York Times Magazine, to name just a few. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter. You can read more on her author webite.

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© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com
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