Monday, May 31, 2010

IF I STAY by Gayle Forman: My review


It was a random tweet that sent me seeking out IF I STAY at my local If somebody had presented me with this book last week and told me, "You will cry at the end of every other scene," I would have raised a quizzical brow. No book could sustain that kind of emotion without sending readers off clamoring for a break.

It was masterfully done.

From the very first chapter, I was disturbed (and I can't recommend this book to anyone under sixteen, on principle--I wouldn't recommend a great R-rated movie to such a tender age-group either). But the way this book disturbed me was not grotesque and showy. It was by realism and raw emotion.

"Please, Mia. Don't make me write a song," was only one line that brought the torrential tears. But the poignant passages are interspersed with flashbacks on (mostly) happier times. This was enough comic relief and character development to keep me reading nonstop. Since there are no chapters, per se, there's no good stopping place. If you pick up this book, plan on reading for several hours. :-)

But there is a feeling of chapters with the one-two motion of present-tense action and thought, then past-tense stories and memories. Now-flashback-now-flashback-now is the way it goes. You'd think it would be distracting, but it flows smoothly. This is the first book I've read that utilizes first-person present-tense (I know, I know, where have I been, right?), so it was distracting to me for the first few pages. But the story and the characters quickly eclipse any thought of the format.

Several times, I paused to think how much I loved a certain character. They are all too bizarre to be fiction. They are real people. It makes you mourn those who pass on, and grieve with those who remain. This is how every fifth paragraph brings you to tears. You've been warned.

I'm not the first to say--and I surely won't be the last--THIS STORY IS PHENOMENALLY TOUCHING AND PROFOUND.

There were things I could have done without, as a Christian YA reader (preferring fantastic escapism to gritty realism, so take these thoughts accordingly).

-Language: Way too much swearing for my liking. I realize we are talking about punk rockers and dire straits here, but, as someone unaccustomed to that vocabulary, it pulled me out of the story.

-Sex: Yeah. I'm all about sexual tension in YA, but this was a bit too edgy for me. As in, it crossed over the edge into actually depicting sex. This may be okay with some YA advocates/readers. It's on my don't-like list of literary attributes.

That was it. Not an exhaustive list. Just two things that caused some dissonance for me, personally.

Otherwise, I have to give this book a glowing review and declare its author a practiced and brilliant story-teller. Thank you, Gayle Forman for a touching, beautiful story. Any reader can tell that you poured your heart and experience into this novel, and the world is better for it.

P.S. As always, I welcome your comments and discussion. That's why I write, people.

Also, check out the book website: and movie gossip: GOOGLE: if i stay movie summit  (Catherine Hardwicke directing, Summit producing, Dakota Fanning as Mia)


  1. Oooo sounds good. I have been in a reading rut. This looks like just what I need!

  2. OH yeah! Make-you-cry books are good rut-breakers. I hope you enjoy it. I'd love to hear your thoughts when you're done!

  3. Fantastic review! I really loved this book when I read it. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel. I still can't get those car accident details out of my head, though...that's not a good thing!

    I can't believe you have Girl with the Silver Eyes in your side bar. I thought nobody knew about that book! It's one my favorites from when I was a kid. :)

  4. Michelle: There's a sequel?!! I did not happen to find that in my scanty research.
    *Repents and goes to find the title right now*

    Still can't find a thing. Weird. I'll have to take your word for it.

    The car accident. Very difficult (emotionally) to read. In fact, I had to put the book down for a day after I read that. But when I picked it up again, I read straight through. Very compelling story.

    And I LOVED Girl with the Silver Eyes. We read it in school in fourth grade right before one of those catastrophic family moves across town. Needless to say, it helped me through a tough time and clinched my fate as a paranormal/science fiction gal.

  5. I'm pretty sure there's a sequel...BUT it's not out yet, so that's probably why you can't find it. I read about it on someone's blog. If I'm wrong, crap, my memory is BAD.


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