18 May 2011

If I Stay

by Gayle Forman

Random House. Young Adult. Paperback RRP $17.95

Guest Reviewer - by Anastasia Gonis

The day starts with a spontaneous family outing, a decision made after a sequence of cancellations from schools and workplaces because of the heavy snowfall. By the end of the day, Mia, a gifted cellist, will see her life and her promising future at Julliard hang by a thread. This book is about choosing life regardless of the odds and events we experience, and why we are often defined by our choices.

The story is told in an omniscient point of view through the voice of Mia who has left her body while in an unconscious state after a tragedy robs her of her entire family. The narration is in sparse and perfect prose with constant references to music as background. Each character’s connection to Mia is built up slowly piece by piece like a jigsaw puzzle in each consecutive chapter, and we see how loved she is within her circle of family and friends; how comfortable and treasured her life is.

The most influential character appears to be Adam, Mia’s boyfriend, whose life also revolves around music but of a different kind. It is left to him to try and call Mia back to life. But it is not as easy as he expects. Mia’s strong ties to her family, and the grief and loss she has experienced, keep her in a limbo of indecision until the final explosive climax.

Forman is an experienced journalist in young adult affairs who has written for Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, and other top magazines. Travelling around the world to obtain her interviews brought on the creation of her first book, You Can’t get There From Here: A Year on the Fringes of a Shrinking World. This current book shows what a polished professional she is. At times funny, then deeply moving, the book will remain unforgettable. Its sequel, Where She Went should be available soon.


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