Sunday, April 14, 2013

If I Stay

Forman, Gayle. If I Stay. New York: Dutton Books, A member of the Penguin Group Inc., 2009. Print.


 It seems like Mia has everything. Cool parents, a best friend, a fantastic boyfriend, a shot at getting into Juilliard as a cellist.  If tragedy wiped out half of your equation, could you go on? Is the choice yours? Mia has to decide to stay in the world, or take her chances with the next.


Mia is a seventeen year old classical cellist with cool rockers for parents, a dedicated best friend, and an emo-core musician boyfriend on his way to stardom.
Yet still she doesn't feel like she "fits" into her life. Even her little brother is blond like her parents, but she's brunette. Her parents seemed to have a bit of difficulty adjusting to her classic geeky leanings. Mia wonders why Adam loves her, when he could have any one of all the cool rocker girls that follow him at his gigs, that can easily "rock-talk" when she can't. Adam's shows and his whole scene leaves Mia uncomfortable, even though she does loves him. 

Forman starts If I Stay with supporting characters that are so one-dimensional and saccharine, they don't ring true. The dialogue was at first completely irritating and predictable. Maybe Forman does this to make the protagonist Mia's life seem perfect and normal, so that when the tragedy hits it will have more of a jarring impact. The problem is, this beginning could cause a reader to stop before they even get to the good part. 

If the reader should persevere, the story will lose a few of the offending characters, and Mia's inner voice will find its depth and promise. Told almost entirely in backstory (exposition), If I Stay manages to stay in first person narrative by allowing Mia's consciousness, (or soul), to follow her people around, allowing her to eavesdrop on happenings outside of the view from where her physical body is stationed. Foreman breaks the "rules" with all this exposition, but does manage to drop in the shining moments of Mia's life's memories just when needed, allowing the reader to judge, along with Mia, whether she has enough to stay for.

From the YA perspective, I wonder what the story would be like if the protagonist had more problems in her life, like many teens really do, making the question of "staying" more of an unknown quantity. Mia isn't a girl with any kind of moral dilemma, not the kind some teens struggle with. Still it is a well-written story, and has a few moments of beautiful prose, and still manages to wring a few tears toward the end. I just would not log it as one of my favorites. 

Genre Category: Coming of Age/Search for Identity, Romance

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