Thursday, March 10, 2011

Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

When I was reading reviews of Before I Fall (by Lauren Oliver, reviewed by me here), If I Stay cropped up a lot. It seemed that many people who liked one enjoyed the other, so I decided to check it out of the library. It was a very quick read, as it's only 208 pages long. I finished it in under two hours.

The story is quite simple: on a snowy day, Mia goes on a drive with her family to visit their friends. On the way there, their dilapidated station wagon is involved in a crash with a much larger vehicle. Mia's mother, father, and younger brother are killed, and she goes into a coma. While comatose, Mia has an out-of-body experience that enables her to watch her friends and family as they come and go through her hospital room. She realizes that it is up to her to decide whether to stay on earth with them or to join her family in death. The novel revolves around her considerations; scenes from her hospital room are interspersed with flashbacks in which she weighs what she'd rather have: her life, or a shot at being with her beloved family.

While If I Stay was enjoyable and well-written, I didn't like it as much as Before I Fall. I think a lot of my reasons for being sort of "eh" about it boil down to my delicate sensibilities. While Forman is sex-positive and portrays feminism in a positive light throughout the book, Mia reminded me overly much of Bella from Twilight. She's sort of pitifully obsessed with her boyfriend, and after about fifty or so pages, it becomes really grating. I also had a hard time relating to him as a character; he consistently seems too good to be true. Other characters were far more well-rendered and three-dimensional, so the whole teen dream post-punk grunge rock star thing was jarringly flat. I also feel that If I Stay, while complex, lacked a lot of the depth that made Before I Fall so great. Also, the ending was really predictable and verged on being cheesy and saccharine.

All told, I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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