REVIEW: If I Stay written by Gayle Forman

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A young family is struck by tragedy as a snow day turns into a life-altering catastrophe. Mia, a young and talented cellist, wakes to a living nightmare as she finds herself separated from her horrifically injured body, barely clinging to life. Following herself through hospital halls and operations, the reality of her situation hits as bad news leaves her realizing that she needs to make one pivotal decision, should she stay on in this life, or move onto the next?

Keeping in trend with 90% of the young adult novels to hit our shelves over the past decade, If I Stay combines tragedy and a sweep-you-off-your-feet romance with an almost-famous love interest. The context in which the story is told proves interesting, as flashback sequences tell various stories about our young heroine’s past as they become relevant. The main storyline, sans flashback, is not a happy one. Brutally graphic in parts, the core of this novel centers around a teenager’s love of music, particularly her passion for classical and her life obsession with cello playing.

I have to admit, I have very mixed feelings about this book. I could see where the author was going, and how clever her method of story telling was, and I could certainly see how she was trying to separate her novel from all the other young adult books out there, by making music the overarching theme, bringing together the love interest and serving as the main characters motivation…but did it work? Sadly, in my opinion, no. Towards the end I found this book to be overly preachy, with the idea that music is life, music can solve all, all we need is music, to be, quite frankly, at times ridiculous! For example, I cannot remember one instance where the main character and her love interest’s conversations are not about music, or leading to a conversation about music. The forced resolution at the end, also derives from, you guessed it, music. At times during my reading, I genuinely cringed. As I said, I can really appreciate what the author was trying to do, and I wish more than anything that she had succeeded, but in my opinion this one misses the mark.

I read this book because I knew it had been turned into a cinematic piece, and had high hopes, especially after some recommendations from friends, that this would be a good one. Having first read the novel, and then viewed the movie (because you should always read the book first if you can), I can’t help but feel as though the movie may have done a better job on this one. Cutting a lot of the story line, and bringing the music to the forefront without slapping you in the face really suited the story. So sadly, if you haven’t read it yet, and are avoiding the movie because of it…maybe just head straight to the DVD.

Watch the movie instead: 2 stars

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