Sunday 22 September 2013

#CBR5 Book 117. "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman

Page count: 262 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Mia has everything a girl could want. Loving, supportive parents, a little brother who's more funny and clever than annoying, a likely admission to Julliard, and a romantic and talented boyfriend. Then her family are in a car accident, and her parents are killed instantly. Mia watches herself and her brother being transported to the hospital, and spends the next twenty four hours out of her own body, watching her relatives, friends of the family, her boyfriend Adam and her best friend Kim as they huddle in the hospital waiting room for news about her.

With her body being kept alive by machines while she's in a coma, Mia suddenly only has one thing left - she has to decide whether she's going to choose to live, and go on without her immediate family, or whether she should let go. Is there enough left for her to make staying worth it?

If I Stay is not a long book, and has fairly short chapters, alternating between Mia's present, where she observes her grieving friends and relatives waiting to see whether she wakes up from her coma or not, and her past, giving us a full picture of the life she had before, and what she lost when her family died in the car crash. Her father, the former rock band member turned high school teacher. Her mum, a former Punk chick. Her younger brother, that she helped deliver when he was born. We see how the daughter of rock enthusiasts started playing the cello and eventually excelled at it. How she and her best friend Kim started out as enemies and became inseparable. How Adam, who plays guitar in a promising Indie rock band, took her to a Yo Yo Ma concert for their first date, and how their relationship blossomed despite their seeming to come from different worlds.

Not feeling like she entirely fits is one of the things that makes Mia question whether she should stay alive. A classical musician surrounded by parents and family friends who preferred rock, with a boyfriend whose band is on the verge of launching their career. From her recollections about her life, it's clear she frequently felt a bit like a fish out of water. Insecurities are natural for teenage girls to have, even when most of their loved ones have completely different frames of reference to them.

A lot of themes are explored in the book, chiefly obviously loss and grief. I found it an engaging and moving read, and am not at all surprised to discover that it is being adapted into a movie, with Chloe Grace Moretz starring as Mia. Hopefully the film captures the sadness and emotion of the book, and doesn't just turn into a maudlin melodrama.

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