Saturday, June 14, 2014

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

When I saw The Fault in Our Stars last week, there were about a handful of trailers beforehand, most of them based on YA novels. The Maze Runner was one, and If I Stay was another. The thing about trailers is they tell you a little bit about the movie you're seeing: it's like Amazon's "if you like this, then you'll like THIS." The movie equivalent uses trailers, suggesting that if The Fault in Our Stars is your thing, then maybe two other YA books to movies will appeal, too. Sometimes it backfires. I'm always so worried when there are a slew of trailers before a movie that I think are nothing like the movie I'm seeing, but someone thinks they are, so maybe the movie I'm seeing isn't really what I think it is?

I'd never read Forman's If I Stay, even though it came out a few years ago, and so the movie trailer functioned like a book trailer. The movie comes out in August, so I figured I had some time to read the book before I'd go to see the movie. I ended up downloading If I Stay as an audio book. It clocks in at five hours, about the same length as John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. It's read by Kirsten Potter, who transitions between the present and the past, as protagonist Mia moves back and forth through time. 

The book starts out on a snow day, a lazy, stay inside weekday that Mia, her brother Teddy, and her parents take off. They live in Oregon, where even the slightest dusting of snow constitutes school closure (Mia's father is a teacher, and it's not hard to convince her mom to skip with them, too). After a big, greasy breakfast, they get in their car and drive to visit their grandparents. Only, on their way there they get in a horrific car accident that kills Mia's mother and father instantly. Mia wakes up by the side of the road and stands up, apparently untouched. But then she spots her own body by the highway, and she sees the paramedics arrive and attend to her. She watches the aftermath of the accident, and follows her body to the hospital, into surgery, and then into the ICU.

While she keeps track of her body in the hospital, Mia recalls her relationship with the most important people in her life - her mom, dad, brother Teddy, boyfriend Adam, and best friend Kim - entering elaborate flashbacks that compose her life before the accident. Only 24 hours pass between the beginning of the book and the ending, and these flashbacks provide the bulk of the novel. Mia's memory is meant to help her make a decision, and to decide whether or not she will let go of life. 

I loved listening to this book in particular through audio book format. Mia's grand question is whether she will stay - living on while her family is gone - or if she will let go. It's the kind of book that I would rush through to get to the resolution at the ending. Pacing is my favorite aspect of audio books - there's no rushing ahead, there's no accidentally flipping to the last page and reading the last line. Audio books facilitate moving through the story at an even, steady, contemplative pace. Which is the reason I have balked against them for so long - I like the freedom of skim-reading a page. Now, it's the reason I'm looking forward to continuing to download and listen to audio books. As well, Mia's passion for playing the cello is at the heart of the book, and her growth as a musician. One of the benefits of the audio book format is that cello music was utilized between chapters, emphasizing the sound that Mia was so drawn to. 

If I Stay will be released later this summer as a movie, and you can view the trailer here:

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