Thursday, 4 September 2014

If I Stay by Gayle Forman: Review

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Black Swan
Buy This Book: Amazon / Book Depository

The last thing Mia remembers is the music.
After the accident, she can still hear it. And she can see her damaged body being taken from the wreck of her parents' car - even though she can't feel a thing.
All she can do is watch as doctors rush to save her life, as her friends and relatives gather outside her room, as the boy she loves struggles to be near her.
As the next twenty-four hours unfold, Mia must come to terms with what came before the crash - and what could come after. And she knows she must make the most difficult choice of all.
If she stays...

I usually start my reviews off straight away, but first I want to discuss the covers for this book. There are soooooo many of them, and yet I kind of hate them all:



   
Seriously... 20 covers and you can't even get one of them right. I think the top 3 covers are the best, but even they aren't that brilliant. I feel like they really did a bad job on every cover for If I Stay, I don't love any of them.

I first read If I Stay way back in 2009, before there was a huge hype surrounding it and a movie being released. This is important for me to mention, well, at least I think so. I don't know what my experience with If I Stay would have been like if I had gone into after hearing all the hype, seeing the glowing reviews and getting my expectations sky-rocketed. As it happened, I bought it for just £1 in Sainsbury's and had 0 expectations, thinking it would probably be terrible. But, for £1, I wouldn't exactly be crying about it if it was. It wasn't. But I did end up crying, a lot.

I know that If I Stay is one of those books that divides people. I have seen glowing 5/5 star reviews for it, and scathing 1/5 reviews. I fall into the glowing review category. If I Stay surprised me so much the first time I read it. I wasn't expecting it to make me feel all the feels, but it did. I start crying from about the 26 page mark and many moments after that, right up until that final page. It's a book that's devastating and heartbreaking, yet it's a book that also makes you happy, hopeful and thankful.

If I Stay, if you hadn't already guessed from the title or the blurb, is about Mia and the decision she needs to make. After a car accident changes her family forever, she watches on as her body is taken to the hospital. Listens in as her family rally around her and hope and pray she wakes up. She knows the decision to stay is up to her, she just doesn't know what she wants to do yet. Can she stay, despite everything that's happened? Or is it all too much?


The accident takes place almost immediately, it's gasp-worthy in it's suddenness and horrifying in how brutally realistic it is. Gayle Forman, in those few pages before the accident, had already made me come to care for this family. I felt devastated by it almost immediately, but Forman isn't done with you yet. This story involves a lot of flashbacks, as Mia looks back on key moments in her life. As she remembers her family and everything they have done for her. As she remembers her relationship with Adam, how they got together, how it's progressed and how it all seems to be falling apart.

There is a romance in this, which is obviously already well established at the beginning of the book. Through flashbacks, we get to see Mia and Adam date, fall in love and go through the hardships all couples face. As they get older, their lives are taking them in very different directions. Their shared love of music is actually what pulls them apart, Adam is in a band as a lead guitarist and singer. Mia is a cellist, who wants to get into Julliard and move to New York. I loved their relationship because it's the most realistic I have seen in a YA novel in a long time. It's not all sunshine and rainbows, they actually have problems to work through and see that having a long term relationship, especially at such a young age, is actually pretty hard.


This book has never been about the romance to me though. It was always more about love and family, and how much you can bear to deal with. When I first read this book, I hadn't experience a sudden loss of anyone young. The most I had lost was a grandparent when I was very young. Forman was able to make it so easy to imagine what it would be like to be in Mia's shoes. I sat and wondered what I would want to do myself, would I want to wake up, knowing that everything would be different. Would I have the strength to stay? That really broke my heart the first time I read it. This time around, having experience far too many sudden deaths of people far too young, it was ten times more heartbreaking. It all felt a lot more real. I cried so much I went through a whole pack of tissues.

Mia's family is what I loved most about this book. Her parents are actually the coolest parents you could ask for, to the point where they seem too perfect. They joke with their children and treat them as friends, as well as their children. They have great taste in music, are supportive and are hilariously funny. Too perfect, right? Wrong. I know some 1/5 review complained that the family wasn't realistic, but they are so wrong. I don't have that perfect family, but I know someone who does. Her family is just like the one in this book, reading it reminded me so much of days spent round her house, watching her, her brother and sister, and her parents all joke around with each other. Her parents and her little brother were coolest people you could meet in fiction. It's nice to have a novel where parents are so important to the character, and not just conveniently absent for the majority of it.


5/5 Butterflies

It could be a bit too cheesy at times, but this packs a big emotional punch. I love any book that can make me sob and sob and sob. This book comes to make me love and care for characters, so much that they seem real. I find it utterly heartbreaking and totally uplifting all at the same time. It works so well to show just how suddenly life can change, and how hard it can be to continue on after that. I thought it was true to life in every aspect, from the accident, to Mia's thought process, to her relationship troubles with Adam. Gayle Forman is a very talented lady, and also a very cruel one. 



20 comments:

  1. I really liked this book :). The cover you've selected and the Dutch cover are my favourites...

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    1. I have to admit to not really liking any of them.

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  2. It's always awkward when I see reviews for this because I was one of those scathing 1-star reviewers. (I thought I was the only one though! Hmm!) Personally, I was just confused at how Mia was able to choose whether she could live or die while she was in a coma. It just didn't make sense to me, you know?

    But I think if you're able to connect to it that it could be a wonderful novel, and I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. The writing is beautiful, isn't it? :)

    Thanks for sharing, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

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    1. She's having an out of body experience. So, yes, technically her body is in a coma but it's like a part of her isn't. I understood the concept it's just hard to explain. I really enjoyed it. I think it's because it's so easy to imagine yourself in that situation and what you would want to do.

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  3. You know, you are right! None of them are truly fab are they? Ha! I never noticed.

    I am so glad you loved this every bit as much as I did.

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    1. You think that they could get it right once after 20 attempts. Apparently not.

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  4. Apparently that publishing company doesn't realize how PRINTING 20 different covers can HURT the sale of a book!? If I saw the same book cover splashed EVERY WHERE the chances of me picking it up are more likely. It is just common sense.
    I liked this one but I like Where She Went SOO much more. I'm not sure why but I did!

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    1. It's 20 covers, but they're all for different countries and things. So you would probably only find 1 or 2 in your own county.

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  5. It's always interesting to see other people's opinions on books. Let's just say it was a good thing that I read this book before I started blogging. I absolutely hated it. But I can see why you liked it, and I'm glad you did. Everyone has their own tastes, and for the most part, at least with the people around me, I'm in the minority for not liking this book. You wrote a really great review, though! I enjoyed seeing why you liked it. It makes me dislike the book a little less.

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    1. So many people hated this book. I love hearing why, especially when I ended up loving it. I definitely understand peoples reasons for why they didn't enjoy it. I really connect with it, and with Mia's struggle to choose what to do.

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  6. I'm not a fan of the covers either, though I do like the movie tie-in, and the one you've chosen (which I've never seen before) is pretty.

    I'm glad you loved it! The romance is my favorite aspect - I love that Adam and Mia's relationship is both genuine and realistic - but the family dynamic is amazing too. Her parents are some of my favorite in YA (finally, a *good* marriage in YA!).

    I hope you'll get to Where She Went soon - I loved that book even more.

    Great review!

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    1. The movie tie in is probably my favourite, I do quite like the one I got as well though.

      I LOVE her parents. I do enjoy the romance aspect, especially how realistic it is. But I love that we have a book that has such a wonderful focus on the family dynamic.

      I have already read and enjoyed Where She Went. Just wanted a re-read of both before I saw the film.

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  7. Eh, I do agree about the covers. TWENTY? Is that necessary? I absolutely hate the first one, but I do like the second one.
    I LOVED If I Stay. I'm glad I read it last year before all the hype too because I don't respond well to hype. I tend to hate the books that everyone raves about. -.-
    I love your blog & the review!

    Check out my latest post, Giveaway for a YA Paranormal: http://thebookworminsider.blogspot.com/2014/09/giveaway-frostbitten.html

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    1. I know, 20 is too much. It's definitely too much when they are all awful. I am so happy I got to it before the hype, worry it would have ruined the book for me.

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  8. I loved this book so much. It was emotionally damaging, so. much. emotional. overload. I read it in five hours. I wish I hadn't taken forever to purchase and read it though. I remember seeing this and Where She Went in Barnes and Noble three or four years ago, but I never really knew what it about or cared. That was my mistake. :(

    The flashbacks killed me, I would read them and be like "I love Mia's family" then remember they were dead and I got really really sad. Then it's like reliving the whole thing over. Just thinking about it kills me... I adored her parents and Adam so much. I love how much background Forman gave us, we got family background, boyfriend background, best friend background and all of the present stuff going on. It's just amazing. I adore this book to absolute pieces. I will be forever recommending it. Great review, I also loved Adam and Mia's relationship a lot. I love that they weren't that perfect couple with no problems and already planning a future together.

    --Amber

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    1. It really is a beautiful book, even if it does make me cry every time I read it. I am so glad I gave it a chance when I saw it. I couldn't say no to a book for £1.

      The flashbacks broke me too. I loved all the characters, especially her family and the relationship that they have with one another. Adam and Mia's relationship was one of the most grown up I have seen in YA for a while, or at least the most realistic. Mia's mum is right, it's really inconvenient to fall in love at 17.

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  9. I liked this one, but I didn't love it, and I think part of that was due to the hype. I read it recently for the first time and I just had really high expectations. For some reason, I just didn't connect as much to the characters. But I did really like it and I thought the movie was well done. Glad you loved it! ~Pam

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    1. I got to read it before the hype, I worry that the hype might have ruined it for me.

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  10. Fantastic, fantastic review, Charnell! I definitely have wanted to read this for a long time, and with the recent hype about the film, I've wanted to read it even more! I definitely don't love any of the covers either, but agree that the first 3 are the nicest. Thankfully, after putting a copy on hold at the library about 3 months ago, it's finally come in, so I can't wait to read it soon. :)

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    1. YAY! I really hope you end up loving it. I'd hate for it not to live up to all the hype for you. I hate when that happens, sometimes hype ruins a book because it's hard to live up to everything you are expecting.

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