Thursday, June 2, 2011

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

In case you didn't notice, USA today says "this will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight."  While I myself AM a fan of Twilight (you haters out there can just deal) I don't like this quote being attached to this book.  "Why," you ask? Well, let me tell you.   It's because this book is NOTHING like Twilight.  There are no sparkly vampires, no beef cake werewolves, and tho there is certainly a "spirit"ual element to the book, I would hardly categorize it as supernatural in the least. In fact, this particular peace of fiction is not far off of what you hear from true life, near death experiences.  I have friends who wouldn't be caught (un)dead reading Twilight (sorry, I just can't resist the puns) and a daughter who did so only over a lost bet.  If the USA Today blurb prevented any of them from reading this book it would be a real tragedy. If I Stay manages a gravity Twilight can't hope to approach.

If I Stay is the story of 17 year old Mia Hall who is involved in a horrific car accident which instantly claims the lives of her parents and leaves both her and her 8 year old brother on the brink of death.  Mia finds herself separated from her body, and faced with the choice that inspired the title of the book. As she wanders the hospital where doctors fight desperately to keep her body alive, Mia's life and relations are revealed to the reader through brilliantly executed flashbacks.

Some may not care for this method of story telling as it requires a degree of trust in the writer and the patience to let the story unfold in its own time.  Names of characters are frequently introduced without relational references making the reader wait to understand that character's significance.  While it may sound awkward, I found it terribly effective and surprisingly subtle for a book that is considered "Young Adult" literature.

If I Stay draws comparison to The Lovely Bones. I've seen the movie, but not yet read the book, so I don't know how the two stack up, but it might be helpful to some of you reading this review.

The paperback weighs in at a sleek 272 pages without feeling rushed in any way.  It is a quick but powerful read.  Gayle's deft handling of this emotionally charged story never felt heavy handed, though I cried at several points in the book (yeah, yeah... I'm hyper-senstive... sue me).

The publisher has recommended this book for readers 14+ and I would definitely let my 14 year old daughter read it (in fact she has done so), but I feel obligated to caution parents.  There's some strong language in this book.  Also, Mia's parents were "free spirits" which gives rise to some events that more conservative readers might find objectionable.  These elements are not pervasive, but the majority of negative reviews at Amazon (there aren't many) cite these as factors.

How much did I like If I Stay?  Gobbs.  As with many of the books I "read", I listened to this one (Kirsten Potter gave a fantastic reading) during my daily commute to New Orleans.  I was so absorbed, it seems that those drives went by in a flash and it's a wonder I didn't find myself in a horrible car crash as I don't remember the trips at all. 

I originally intended to listen to Charlaine Harris' Dead Reckoning next, but after discovering that Gayle has published the follow up Where She Went,  I was compelled to check and see if my library had a copy of the unabridged audiobook.  Low and behold it did, so Sookie has been pushed back a bit. You can expect a review in the next couple of days. 

In the mean time if you have any questions or comments regarding If I Stay, please feel free to post (avoid spoilers, please, or at the very least mark them as such so people can avoid them if they so choose).


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