Series: If I Stay #1
Published by Dutton Juvenile on April 2nd, 2009
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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 heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.
I blame the hype machine. Part of me wants to be really cynical right now and scream, “Keep your opinions to yourselves people!” But in truth, I think this is more of a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” Don’t get me wrong, this is a good book, for sure. But it never made me gasp, cry, or any one of a million emotions seemingly everyone had promised me I’d have.
If I Stay is a very original and daring story. It takes a concept that just hasn’t been done before, really, and does it really well. The decision Mia faces is dramatic, thought provoking, heartfelt, albeit at times depressing. A lot of people, fascinated with near-death experiences and life/death decisions, will love this book. Sadly, it’s time for me to come to terms with the fact that I’m not really one of those people.
I think my personal beliefs got in the way of this one. I’m not a big believer of out-of-body experiences. I think I’m just too skeptical for that. And while I know this is a book, and it doesn’t have to be true (I read enough fantasy as it is), it didn’t convince me. I think I had trouble not only with the concept, but also with Mia’s arguments against “staying”. I didn’t feel they were strong enough to justify her consideration of that option for most of the novel.
I just couldn’t connect to Mia. I think this is partly because we’re thrown right into the accident. We barely get to see any of Mia, her personality and her family, before it happens, and that makes it difficult for me to find a connection to her while I’m simultaneously trying to figure out what is happening. But even afterwards, her memories make her seem really bland and boring. I suppose that was intended to show that this can happen to a regular every-day girl, but if I’m reading a book I still want to be wowed and charmed by the main character. And the same happened with her romance with Adam. It felt rather lukewarm.
The time jumps didn’t work for me. I liked how each visitor or occurence in the hospital triggers a memory of Mia’s past, and some of them definitely worked, but some didn’t. Some felt really out of place, and it didn’t help that the memories weren’t in chronological order either. That really made it especially hard to get swept up into the relationship between Adam and Mia.
Some parts of the writing just made me raise an eyebrow. Don’t get me wrong, Gayle is definitely a great writer. Her talent pretty much floats off the page. But I could sort of tell this was her debut. Passages like Adam and Mia “playing each other” like they were instruments? What was that supposed to be? I mean, I am a music freak and a fan of romance but that just seemed really awkward to me. And Mia describes one of the nurses as having “blue-black skin”. Ummm… wut.
The last 5-10 pages were better than the rest of the novel combined. I wish it all had that kind of spark. The rest of the novel was this big, slow build up to that moment, but while you’re reading, it’s difficult to tell that. I kept waiting to be wowed and it just took forever to (sort of) get there. While I get the idea of building to a climax, usually there’s still some highs and lows on that journey to the climax, and I guess I just missed that. This book may have been too subtle for my liking.
Summing Up:This heartfelt journey was a narrow miss for me. I think my opinion of this book is so lukewarm because I spent most of the novel waiting for the other shoe to drop. Which means I need to move on to the sequel right away, which I was planning on doing anyway. I think the consequences of Mia’s decision will ultimately touch my heart more than the process of reaching that decision. So we’ll see if Where She Went can sway me.
I can only hope this review doesn’t change your opinions of me, and I’ll be hiding in my cave, terrified of your comments, for the next couple days. (JK, please, explain to me what everyone’s fascination with this book is. Am I missing something?