Today a slightly harsher take on If I Stay by Gayle Forman!
Life can change in an instant. A cold February morning . . . a snowy road . . . and suddenly all of Mia's choices are gone. Except one.As alone as she'll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.Gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, If I Stay will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you've lost - and all that might be.
Since the movie adaptation comes out soon, I decided to do the rightful thing and read the book first, to justify a viewing. While obviously the film producers saw something in this, unfortunately I failed to see what was so special. Maybe they liked it for the wrong reasons.
Starting with the positives: If I Stay is a well-crafted book. Simple, but in this case effective. Set over one day, starting just before the tragedy, we view this near perfect picture of family life before it descends into chaos and Mia ultimately feels alone - before her boyfriend Adam saves the day. It's a short book - 196 pages in the Kindle edition; I think that was fitting for the chain of events. Anymore and it would’ve become more of a drag to read. I also liked the flashbacks to begin with, so we could have some family background, but eventually I just wanted to learn Mia’s fate. It was probably my short attention span, but nonetheless effective to get background directly to readers.
Moving on, the plot depends highly on character reaction. The way Mia's extended family deals with the accident, like her grandparents and Adam, was realistic enough. Forman's worked cleverly with balance of emotion - not making it too depressing for readers while keeping then interested throughout. I'd say Adam was my favourite character, as well as Teddy, but that's expected considering he's a cute young kid. Although Mia and Adam's relationship appears perfect to start, the cracks soon begin to show. I appreciated this greatly. I've just about had enough of perfect teenager relationships in YA so this was definitely welcome. The pair actually arguing over stuff, with a bit of drama thrown into the mix. While it wasn't Jeremy Kyle material which I was grateful for - the balance was near perfect.
Before I get negative, I'll also mention that there was nothing wrong with the actual writing. Filled with meaningful lessons and lots of highlight-able stuff. I do have to say though, my main gripe about the book meant I couldn't enjoy this element much at all, which saddened me.
Call me heartless, but I didn't feel any emotion towards any of the characters. Yes the situation is traumatic and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but the fact Mia experiences it through an out of body shock, made it an emotionless ride for me. I cared little for Teddy and her parents. Even though Gramps has a supposedly heart wrenching scene crying over Mia, I felt nothing. In my opinion this was a major flaw. I did understand the author’s intentions however. Have all the emotion rush back to her once Adam appears. She wanted us on tenterhooks until he last five pages. But how do you expect readers to get there if they feel no compassion for the majority? It didn’t make sense to me. I also understand the shock – Mia’s in a coma after all – she’s unlikely to feel anything. But I don’t think this angle worked at all for this reason.
Despite the initial criticism for TFIOS by John Green, I still felt deeply affected by it. If I Stay got nothing from me. It feels as though Forman is jumping on the bandwagon, that’s what the film producers want too. Maybe this was because it was a short book, but I didn’t connect with the characters or story at all, unfortunately. Maybe this will translate better on screen, with actual faces to put to names, but I’m unsure whether it’s worth taking the risk.
In summary: I only found one flaw with If I Stay, but it was a pretty big one. A well-crafted, well written story, but with characters I just didn’t care about. Major issue. I so wanted to like this, but have no desire to re-read or see the film. 2.5 stars.
Have you read If I Stay? What did you think? Love it or hate it, let me know in the comments!