Gayle Forman's If I Stay, reviewed.

It definitely wasn’t the proclamation on the cover of the paperback version of this book that intrigued me:  I’m not easily excited by anything that promises to “appeal to fans of ‘Twilight.'”  I know, I know, there’s a movie coming out, made by a director of one of the ‘Twilight’ films and surely, if you want to sell a YA novel right now, attaching that magical T-word to it is always a massively excellent idea.  But…actually…Forman’s novel stands on its own, without any relationship to the Meyer phenomena, as a well-written piece of art that I’m sure really does connect with many of its target audience.   Teenage girls on the Internet seem quite giddy about it, actually, and although I haven’t been a teenager in awhile (okay, it’s been a LONG while), I could feel it, too…the characters are so wonderfully drawn you can’t help but relate to them.  The plot concerns seventeen-year-old Mia, a supremely talented musician with a brilliant future, a loving and supportive family, an adoring boyfriend, and a loyal best friend…everything any teenager could wish for.  One wintry morning, a devastating car accident ruins her perfect life, and Mia has a matter of hours to choose what direction she should take next.  Told in a series of flashbacks that mesh with real-time, Forman deftly takes the reader on a journey through Mia’s short life, tugging at every available heartstring along the way.  (Be warned:  tissues are absolutely necessary.  I thought I was pretty stoic about the whole thing, I only cried twice).  The constant emotional wrangling isn’t cheap, either.  The exploration of relationships – Mia’s feelings about her boyfriend Adam, her little brother Teddy, her father and mother, her best friend, even her grandparents and her aunts and uncles – are all real and valid, and they reflect on the reader.  We feel Mia’s incredible loss, but we also feel how much her family and friends care for her and love her. 

As an aside, the vast musical references were really appealing to me; as a huge fan of most genres of music, I greatly enjoyed that part of the book.  The edition I read had a lovely note by the author, regarding her selection of music and her feelings regarding the importance of each artist and song in the book.   I hope they mine the author’s choices for the soundtrack of the film. 

Highly recommended.  YA books are not just for teenagers anymore…there are some seriously talented writers out there, and some interesting subject matter being explored. Rebel and read one.   

***

If I Stay book trailers available on You Tube. 

A sequel, called Where She Went, will be released in Spring 2011.

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