Wow. I just finished If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and it's safe to say I've never read anything like it before. I was so captivated by this novel and it's concept that it was hard to put down. It's about a 17-year-old gir, Mia, who, at the beginning of the book, has a great life. She has a loving family, loyal best friend, the popular rocker boyfriend who's totally devoted to her. Oh, and she's an amazing cellist. Like, going to Juilliard amazing. Until, on an impromptu drive, her family's car is hit by a truck and Mia finds herself in the hospital fighting for her life. The majority of the novel is spent with Mia in spirit form watching as family, friends, and her boyfriend Adam fight for her to stay in the world of the living. While in the hospital, Mia realizes that it is her decision alone if she will stay.
A couple of quotes really stuck out to me in this book. The first occurs on pg. 108 when Mia describes how her best friend Kim saved her from quitting the cello. "I was overwhelmed with gratitude to be friends with someone who often seemed to understand me better than I understood myself." I like this quote because we all want that one friend, and if we have that one friend, we hold on to them with an iron grip. Some of us get lucky and meet that friend in kindergarten, and others, like Mia, don't meet that friend until they are older. No matter when you meet that friend, you somehow just know that friend is "the one." And let's be honest, friends are just about the biggest part of school. If you have a friend who has your back, you can get through anything. I mean ANYTHING. That's what makes a best friend so special. Kim does not disappoint in the best friend arena. While Mia is in the hospital, Kim does all that she can to make sure Mia gets through this "anything."
I think one reason I like this book is because it doesn't sugar coat the realities of life. It's very honest about the fact that sometimes life is a picnic...and sometimes it's not. Mia is a high school senior and her boyfriend Adam is in college. They've naturally started to go in different directions but neither wants to admit it. Mia says, "My stomach lurched, an appetizer before the full portion of heartache I had a feeling was going to be served at some point soon," (171). We've all been there, dealing with a struggle of some sort. Maybe it's a boyfriend who's going in a different direction, a friend who betrays us, or something else entirely. But we've all felt that stomach lurch. Having lived through my fair share of stomach lurches, (and realizing I've surely got more to come), it also struck me how, in the moment, sometimes the struggle seems like it's the only thing going on in the world. But, after we push through it, we look back on it and realize it wasn't so bad. Maybe it was even good we went through it because it made us stronger. It's helped us to grow in some way. So I guess I appreciate the book's admittance of reality. Sometimes we want to read to escape life's realities, and sometimes we need a dose of reality itself. This book definitely gives us that.