If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)Although I rarely enjoy film adaptations of books more than the books themselves (The Lord of the Rings being the most notable exception), this is a case in which I had zero interest in the book before I was bombarded by trailers. It’s not the typical book I go for – if I read YA or chick-lit, I want it to be happy, not depressing as this obviously was.

Mia Hall is the classical musician daughter of rock musician parents. Even her younger brother got the punk genes, so between her family and her rocker boyfriend Adam, she often feels a little adrift. She finds solace in her cello and her musical gifts are great enough to get her an audition at Julliard.  Her biggest concern revolved around leaving her loved ones to move from the West Coast to NYC, until a catastrophic car accident kills her parents on impact and leaves her in a coma.

Honestly, I didn’t find any of the characters to be very engaging. While it was nice to see a close-knit, non-dysfunctional family in a YA novel, none of them were particularly original. Even Mia, whose view we observe everything from, comes across as flat. Because the book started with the crash and detailed Mia’s experience post-crash, Mia’s back story and relationships with Adam and her parents are told through incessant flashbacks. This mode of narration became annoying after awhile because it was really disjointed and some of the memories were apropos of nothing that was occurring in the present time. I would’ve rather had more story up front, then had the crash happen towards the end. Additionally, the writing was weak and situations often felt trite.

The innovation of the storytelling is supposedly in how Mia has her out-of-body experience after the crash, observing her friends and remaining family gather over her comatose body. She needs to decide whether she should die or stay, but she spends a lot of time waffling over that question even though she has no idea of if she’d see her family in the “afterlife.” I think if Forman had delved into the religious rationale of that conundrum (i.e. if Mia had a spiritual affiliation that would lead her to believe that death was more than just an end), her uncertainty would’ve made more sense. Instead, she sees all these people who love her and want her to return, but doesn’t really explain why she doesn’t want to. It’s implied I guess that she feels like it would be hard to live without her parents, but for awhile she doesn’t know the fate of her brother and she still doesn’t make a decision, even though her dying would mean leaving him alone if he was still alive.

In the end, I guess we were supposed to care about her choice, but since I didn’t and since (in this book) we didn’t get a sense of the consequences of her actions, the whole plot up to the obvious conclusion was underwhelming.

2 Stars

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