Book Review: If I Stay

The first time I heard of IF I STAY by Gayle Forman I was sitting in a dark movie theater waiting for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS to start. I'm a firm believer in supporting authors and so I try and see as many book movies as I can, with the caveat that I read the book first. The preview to IF I STAY drew me in, and it was in my Amazon cart before the preview was even finished.

I finished this book in two hours. I couldn't put it down. This book was bittersweet. Mia watches her family and her broken body taken away after a terrible accident. Then there's a choice: to live, or to let go. The book is a series of flashbacks piecing together Mia, the daughter, the sister, the girlfriend, the best friend. Each scene is written with power and beauty, leaving the reader to revel in loss and love and wonderful and awful things.

I'm usually not a fan of flashback books, but Forman does it exquisitely. She layers the scenes so that you fall deeply in love with the characters, making everything harder and sweeter. By releasing bits and pieces at a time, she creates a modular story that increases in depth with each page. The pacing is perfect, the characters are painfully real. They are flawed and easy to love. The relationship between Adam and Mia is genuine, two music nerds on different sides of the industry approaching change.

There's also a balance. This is a heart heavy subject, but there are moments of joy and humor. It's really well done. Mia's parents are really fun. It makes the loss of them even worse.

What I love about the writing, is the details. "Pieces of my father's brain on the asphalt. But his pipe is in his left breast pocket." Even in terrible tragedy, the focus is the pipe. The pipe represents so much of her father's character: his punk rock soul and push against society. Even in death, that's what stands out. It's lovely, it's all so lovely.

If you're looking for gut wrenching contemporary YA, I highly recommend this novel. I'm really looking forward to seeing if the movie captures all the feels. This book is all about feels.

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