If I Stay, by Gayle Forman (REVIEW)
April, 2010. 272 pages, Speak, paperback reprint, $8.99
(978-0142415436) Young Adult
Seventeen-year-old Mia has a perfect family, a supportive boyfriend, and a promising future. Then a devastating car crash flings Mia into an out-of-body experience where she must decide whether to give up and die with her family, or fight for her life and an unknown future without them.
I greatly disliked the first chapter of the book, as I suspect most Oregonians will. Writer Gayle Forman is a New Yorker who begins If I Stay by describing an Oregon snow storm in the condescending tone of someone who believes Oregonians make a bit too much ruckus over our insignificant snowfall.
I don't really feel like Forman "gets" teens. Her teen characters guffaw and chortle, their conversations "volley" and they have very unusual relationships. Mia's mother is a feminist and her father is an ex-band member who recently decided to grow up. No one ever seems to argue or disagree, and it's perfectly okay that Mia takes eighteen-year-old rocker boyfriend Adam up to her room, because her parents would never stand in the way of love. Yeah. Sure. Forman also speaks of Adam wearing "pegged" pants, which I can only guess are supposed to be skinny jeans. Pegged pants were an 80's and early 90's thing, and I now have a vision of a punk/grunge rocker running around with his pants pegged. Hey, they say all styles come back sooner or later ...
All that being said, this is a touching story. Forman does a great job at making the reader feel for the characters. The family relationship, though odd, is enduring. Mia's view of the world and her responsibilities is incredibly mature for a girl her age, but it seems to work. You'd think the book would be terribly depressing, but it's not. It's more of a celebration of the lives of Mia's parents and little brother. A celebration of the life she doesn't know if she can continue without them. As she's deciding, her boyfriend, best friend, grandparents, aunts, uncles, family friends, etc. surround Mia with love, hoping that she'll realize what a great family she still has.
My favorite line in the book: "This is Portland. You're lucky if a drug overdose gets you into the ER."
Since this is a young adult book, I feel compelled to warn of language and sexual content.