Cannonball Read III: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The premise is simple: Mia is a gifted cello player, has a wonderful, quirky family and a close best friend. And there is Adam. Adam is the boyfriend, a rocker who seems to have nothing in common with Mia except for their love of music and of each other. There are also supporting players: Mia's best friend. Family friends. Grandparents. The emphasis in the beginning of the book is on how close the family is and how much they love each other. In one second, Mia's life is shattered when there is a terrible car accident. She finds herself on the side of the road looking at what remains of her family and of herself.
From this point on it's all about choice, Mia's corporeal body lies unconscious and mangled and her spirit must decide whether to go or stay. She knows that she is the only surviving member of her immediate family. She also sees the reactions of her loved ones: friends, extended family, even the hospital staff taking care of her. Her life is viewed through flashbacks which clearly illustrate who this girl is: she is a gifted musician, she loves her family, her friends and Adam.
I have to emphasize the role music plays in this book. It is an integral part of the story. I responded viscerally to this aspect because, to me, memories are frequently entwined with music and I loved how this was handled in the story, especially because both Mia and Adam are musicians. I also loved that despite Mia's being a teenager, her life is never trivialized or diminished in any way.
If I Stay is one of those books that haunts you long after the reading is done. The plot is both memorable and meaningful; it is really beautifully written and, although it can be sentimental, it is never maudlin nor hokey. All in all it is an unexpectedly satisfying read and those are the best ones: you don't go in looking for it, but there it is.
For more of Az's reviews, check out her blog, bib·li·o·ma·ni·ac.
This review is part of Cannonball Read III. For more information, click here.