Book: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Seventeen-year-old Mia, in February of her senior year, has all the same problems that any kid does when wobbling on the cusp of adulthood. Should she stay in Portland for college, or take the chance at Juilliard, leaving everyone she cares about behind? What will happen with her boyfriend? Will she even make it with her music, or wind up playing the cello for the local Nutcracker every year?
Then one snowy morning, the family car swerves into oncoming traffic, and suddenly all of Mia's dizzying choices are boiled down into one.
Switching back and forth between Mia's disembodied spirit, watching the aftermath, and memories of her life before, this book takes us through the most important choice any of us will ever make.
Number of Pages: 196
Why Did I Hype?: This one's been all over the blogosphere for months, and is now slated to become a movie (helmed by "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke, no less).
Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 10/10
Forman does some nice things in here. The family, while close and loving, don't make you ill. The parents have actual pasts, and Mia had a slightly unusual upbringing. Plus, classical-music-loving and cello-playing Mia has always felt out of place in her own punk-rock family, and even more so with her punk-rock boyfriend. Forman neither overplays or glosses over this aspect.
And it's quite a thing when you're within 15 pages of the end and you're still in doubt about Mia's final choice.
Of course we all know what the book is about even before we open it, so there were two scenes that were just horrendous for me to read. One was the breakfast scene that opens the book: a happy family, reveling in a snow day, innocent of what is to come. The second is the scene where Mia's spirit finds her parents after the accident. The description of her father's body will haunt me for a long time. Luckily for me, the one punch Forman does pull concerns Teddy, Mia's younger brother, whose death is handled almost entirely off-screen.
There are some funny parts, but don't get me wrong--this is a serious, intense book. At least five minutes of that reading time accounts for me just sitting on my couch, head in my hands, bawling. So far in this 48-hour challenge, I've been able to set the book aside and start working on the review right away, but I couldn't even face the thought when I closed this book.
I honestly do wonder how they'll handle turning this into a movie. The book is so intensely inner, and switches from the present to the past so often (with no linear timeline in the latter) that whoever is working on the script has one heck of a job ahead of them. If they do it right, it could be amazing. If they do it wrong, I'll be the one in the front row MST3King and throwing Jujubes at the screen.