If I Stay (Review)

February 10, 2011

Book cover for "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman.Title: If I Stay

Author: Gayle Forman

Narrator: Kirsten Potter

Publication Year: 2009

Pages: 208 (audio length: 5 hours 2 minutes)

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Purchased audiobook from Audible.com

From the cover:

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck … A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make — and the ultimate choice Mia commands.

Though I heard about this book early last year, I didn’t really know what it was about. When it went on sale on Audible, though, as the “first in a series“, I took a look and decided to give it a whirl.

If I Stay was very different from most of the novels that I read, even the young adult ones. The entire story is told from Mia’s perspective, and most of it takes place after the collision that takes the lives of her parents and brother. And yet, she’s unconscious. Or, at least, her body is.

The way that Forman chose to tell Mia’s story was probably what kept my interest the most. I liked the way that most of the story was told to the reader in the form of “memories” that Mia is thinking about while her body lies in the hospital. It allowed me, as a reader, to really understand where the story was going right from the beginning – I didn’t have to wait forever for the car accident – and to just get into the flow of Mia’s thoughts.

It also meant that I was still entertained even though all that really “happened” during the narrative time of the book was a snow day, a car accident, and a stint in the hospital. That, in itself, would have made for a very boring story, even if it was told after chapter upon chapter of background story. Instead, Forman chose to reveal the “climax” right from the get-go, and then the reader could sit back and really get into Mia’s thought processes as she remembers things about her life and relationships that are integral to the decision she has to make.

Even with these positive points, If I Stay also wasn’t the best book that I’ve read (or listened to) recently. While the humour and stories were quirky and interesting most of the time, there were moments when it felt forced and unrealistic. And it took me a while to get used to the narrator of the audio version – at first, she sounded way too old for the character, but I’m not really sure if that was because of her actual voice or because of the way the story was written.

In the end, though, I enjoyed reading this book, and I hope you will, too. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel, Where She Went, once it’s released in a couple months.

Rating:

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