Wednesday, July 28, 2010
If I Stay
I was looking for a book that I'd heard a lot about. It had something to do with a girl dying and then covered her decision whether to stay alive. Come to find out, the book that was being recommended was called Before I Fall. In a happy accident, instead I picked up If I Stay by Gayle Forman. (You can understand how I ended up with the wrong book based on the titles.)
If I Stay is the marvelous story of a teenage cello prodigy and her last memories before she must choose whether to stay among the living. In a break from traditional young adult novels, Mia is not a disturbed, or unloved, or unliked girl. Instead, her father is a recovering punk musician who has turned to teaching, her mother is a fiesty ex-hippie type now working in an office, and Mia also has an accidental brother several years her junior. She both loves and likes her family and the car accident that affects them all forces her to heart-wrenchingly recollect all of their good points.
Mia happens to also have a devoted boyfriend, a year older than her, who is a rock musician - the lead singer in a band that is on the rise. She has a best friend, named Kim; together they share the same dark sense of humor. She has her grandparents, no-nonsense, reserved types. And her parent's friends - musicians, a nurse, friends of friends .... The tragedy has her considering the definition of family.
The story is told using a timeline format and over the course of the night, each chapter is a memory about her life, her family, and her extended family. Each chapter could be a short story: so precise and complete, with prose that is both strong and and taut like the fabric on a trampoline. Here's an excerpt:
"That was thirty years ago," Adam said. "And even if I wanted to move to New York, there's no way the rest of the band would." He stared mournfully at his shoes and I recognized that the joking part of the conversation had ended. My stomach lurched, an appetizer before the full portion of heartache I had a feeling was going to be served at some point soon.
Will Mia stay? I don't want to give anything away because the suspense that lasts until the very end of the book is deliciously on-edge, and exquisitely written.