Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.
I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.
Stay, he says.
Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?
Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.
If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.
This book is built on relationships. It is an analysis of Mia´s conversations with people, her feelings about people, her observations about people. She is not one character, but the sum of bits and pieces of all the people she´s encountered, of the things she´s experienced. Who Mia is, all the things that make her who she is, are woven into an enormous web, and at its center is the Ultimate Choice (I shall refer to it as that, because I don´t want to spoil anybody).
Mia´s family is an absolute gem. It felt real to the bone, and I could picture them perfectly, from their clothes, to their actions, to what they said…it´s all very natural. Sometimes I felt like Mia lacked a little oomph, but with all that happens around her, it doesn´t take from the plot. Her family´s interactions were so heartfelt and honest, you can feel their love for Mia. Her dad, mom and even her little brother are just so different from each other, and yet, their pieces fit together. They´re cool and eclectic, spraying life all over the pages of this book. Also, A+ use of pop culture references, I honestly could not stop smiling about it.
Besides her family, I´d say Mia has two other major players in her life: Kim and Adam. I particularly loved Kim and Mia´s friendship…they didn´t start off as friends (they were each other´s first and only fist fight) and from that they built something lovely. Kim is strong, Jewish, stubborn, and the two of them hold each other up.
And then, we have Adam. Adam, Adam, Adam. Their relationship is not all smooth, by any means. They hit rocky patches, not all sunshine and rainbows, but that just makes it so much more real. I really enjoyed how they´re not entirely dependent on each other, they are their own persons, and they´re together by choice. They got to know each other, and from that they became friends and then, eventually, started loving one another. They weren´t together because they felt like they would die if they weren´t, which is a vibe I get a lot from YA and other contemporary novels. I love their relationship, it´s warm and solid, built on tough ground.
This entire book revolves around music. Mia´s family lives and breathes music, Adam bleeds it and Mia´s future might build itself on it depending on her choices. Music is always playing during the most important parts of the story, or if it´s not, it is mentioned or thought of. Mia´s relationship with musical notes and her cello are the standing stones of this book. Music is a given part of their lives and routines.
Although the plot tends to become a little spiritual and “mystic,” it feels very real. There are many details, from scientific to geographical facts, that help integrate the reader into the character´s world, which shows for the author´s thorough research on the subject.
The plot is a braid of past and present. It´s done well, and it doesn´t get tiring because the author doesn’t linger too much on the flashbacks or on the current events, constantly changing and keeping the reader interested. Big, important, shocking events happen in the beginning, but the reader doesn´t feel the true expanse of what just happened, because we don’t really know the characters yet. But with each passing chapter, as you get to know more about Mia and her past, you start to see said events in a different light, you start to really feel the story, but in a backwards arc. Suddenly, what has already happened is much more important and has an entirely different weight.
I´ve never been a huge fan of contemporary reads; but I must say I really enjoyed this one. Gayle Forman created a unique and startling story, approaching human emotions from a different point of view. When picking up this book, prepare your hearts.