Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

Book Cover Image: If I Stay by Gayle FormanTitle:  If I Stay

Author:  Gayle Forman

Synopsis:  One bright morning, Mia has it all – a loving family, a bright future, an adoring boyfriend, a musical gift, a once-in-a-lifetime best friend.  Yet, that is all taken away in an instant, forcing Mia to make the most difficult decision of her life. 

Thoughts:  The premise of If I Stay is quite simple.  When faced with complete and utter loss, would you choose to stay or let go?  The agony and the emotion behind the decision is what gives this novel its power. 

Mia’s life that bright morning makes the terror of the accident that much more forceful and shocking.  The love and joy Mia has for her parents and little brother leaps off the page.  The entire family dynamic is one of love and understanding, trust and utter honesty.  It is a dynamic that most people dream of having with their parents, siblings, children and extended family.  Whenever Mia flashes back to certain situations, the love and support she feels towards her family and receives in return soothes the jagged edges of the reader’s emotions, already raw with emotion over Mia’s fate. 

Contrast that with the shock and horror of having to face the loss of her family, the despair she feels as a silent observer to everything that is occurring around her body, making a difficult decision even more difficult as her emotions are pulled taut with conflicting desires.  Every time Mia flashes back and returns to the present, the reader is left with the emotional equivalent of a punch in the gut and heart-wrenching pain at the renewed sense of horror and loss. 

The characters are what make this novel so special.  The reader is automatically drawn to Mia and the awfulness of her present circumstance.  Yet, as she remembers and shares with the reader her innermost thoughts, there is a underlying vulnerability that melts even the hardest of hearts.  The reader wants to protect Mia from anything bad.  Adam does just that.  He supports her in a way that most teenagers cannot.  There is an unselfishness to their relationship that is touching and incredibly mature.  To me, theirs is an incredibly realistic relationship, reminiscent of my own courtship with my husband.  They know they are young and make no demands on each other outside of the present.  It truly is a special relationship.

The one character that most affected me though was Gramps.  Mia’s grandfather is a quiet constant in her life, not as chatty as her grandmother, not as quirky as her father, not as forceful as her mother.  He is the quiet presence that provides stability and love, and he very much reminds me of my own grandfather, who I lost over twenty years ago.  He too was quiet, unobtrusive, yet the love I felt from him was a constant in my life and left a huge hole when he died.  Mia’s memories of her grandfather were eerily similar to some of my own memories, making any scene with Gramps doubly painful for me. 

Like Mia, the reader cannot decide which path is the correct path to take.  Should she succumb and let go, knowing that without her parents and her brother, life will be a relative shell of what it used to be?  Should she stay, knowing that she still has the love of her grandparents, Kim, and most importantly, Adam?  Which is the correct answer?  Is there a correct answer?  If love is eternal, then does it matter in the end?

If I Stay has been compared to Twilight.  Honestly, I have no idea why this comparison was made and think it is actually an unfair comparison because it sets up certain expectations in readers of this beautifully poignant novel that will be left unfulfilled.  If I Stay is strong enough to stand on its own merits, and stand it does.  It is a shining example of the power of love and the power of choice. 

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