Friday, October 12, 2012

Review Me Twice: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I took a long time to getting around to writing this review. It isn't because I've been busy, or because I forgot... I just don't really know how I feel about this book.

I really liked the idea of it. Basically, a girl tries to decide whether to "stay" or "go" while she's comatose after a deadly car accident. It's a really interesting and unique idea, and it was well-written. I like the setting, the dialogue, how none of it seems too "explainy" (you are shown, not told, what is going on).

But this girl's family... my gosh. I don't think there's a single family in the world that is that perfect. I won't go into detail, but they're just... perfect. It's a little ridiculous. In fact, it's distracting. I understand, though. There was no need for them to have extra conflict... it would have made the book way longer, because there would have been a lot more back-and-forth and confusion and really, all we need to know is that she really liked being around her family and they were a very loving group. But they're so perfect.

Other than that, I don't really have anything negative to say about the book... yet I still don't love it. Which is okay; it happens. I would still recommend the book to people, because I do think it was good. It just didn't have the impact on me that I had hoped for.

This book was a lot different than I expected.  If you read the description on the flap, you get the feeling that she was going to have to make a decision between her family, boyfriend and her future.  But when I got only a short distance into the book, I realized that it was something very different than I expected.  It was Mia in a sort of limbo, knowledge of her family's death from an accident, choosing whether she wanted to continue on with her life or choose death.

Mia is really kind of a fly on the wall as she watches her family simultaneously grieve and hope and we're a little bit of a fly on the wall to her memories.  She sees her family hope against hope that she survives, largely because they lost her parents and her brother to the car accident.  She is essentially their salvation but Mia isn't sure that she wants that burden.  And it is a huge burden for her.  She would be facing a completely different life, lonely and dealing with an unimaginable amount of grief.

Part of the reason I loved this book, though, is because it shows you that family doesn't mean the people who are related to you.  Through my own life, my family haven't really been the people I could depend on.  They weren't really the people my friends went to.  At one point in the story, Kim, Mia's best friend, tells her that she still has family.  I think that's an amazing message to tell kids.  I think so much emphasis is put on family, which is good, and this book does affirm family values, but blood doesn't always mean family.  Family is the people who love you, who support you, who are there for you in the worst of times and a lot of times, they're the people who aren't related to you by blood.

I think that Kim was my favorite character in this book.  Mainly because she reminds me of Alex and I so much.  Kim and Mia were not good friends when they met.  In fact, they weren't friends at all.  They couldn't stand each other.  It wasn't until a fist fight that they finally became friends.  The first time I met Alex, I told her that I couldn't stand Stephen King and that I thought he was a terrible writer, despite the fact that her shelves were lined with his books.  We were really just peripheral friends for about three years until, our senior year of college, we spent a summer together discovering that neither of us thought the other person liked us when, in reality, we both thought the other person was great.

Kim also seems to know exactly what Mia needs.  She leaves and finds Adam (Mia's boyfriend) because she knows that it's going to be for the best.  Even though Adam and Kim have never been close, they bond as they try to break into the ICU so Adam can be close to her.  I like how no nonsense Kim is and how, as Mia remembers her time with Kim, the two of them are always there for each other.  They're family.  

Forman could have really made this book weird and gone into left field with it, but I think she handled it well.  I think the family relationship that Mia has with her family is just a little too near perfect (families are messier. They fight and argue and there were 12 years between my sister and I and we certainly didn't get along in the magical way that Teddy and Mia did.)  I understand that she wanted to focus on relationships with friends as opposed to relationships with families, but I think that she kind of missed the mark with Mia's family.

I can't hate on this book much more than that.  The themes hit too close to home for me, something that not a lot of authors touch on.  Family doesn't always mean blood and I really love how well Forman shows that. 

My Bottom Line: 4 out of 5

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