Tuesday, August 18, 2009

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Mia is a seventeen-year-old classical cellist, waiting to hear if she's been accepted to Julliard. Her parents are involved in Oregon's alternative music scene and Mia's boyfriend, Adam, is the lead singer in an up-and-coming band, Shooting Star. Will Mia choose to move to New York and leave her boyfriend behind? When she hears Adam strumming an unfamiliar melody, she asks him what he's playing. He says, "I'm calling it 'The Girlfriend's-Going-to-Julliard-Leaving-My-Punk-Heart-in-Shreds Blues'."

But Mia's choices are soon to be even more important.

[Spoiler Alert: If you plan to read this book, wait until after you've finished to read the rest of what I've got to say about it.]

Her parents are killed in a car crash that leaves Mia and her little brother in critical condition. She finds herself outside of her body, looking on, deciding whether to stay in this world or to let go.

It is too much of a sappy romance for me, but teen girls will no doubt love it. The author has included some strong female role models, including Mia's mother and her mother's friend, "another tough-as-nails, tender-as-kittens, feminist bitch." (Stereotype much?) Which doesn't explain why Mia would say, of the nurse with acrylic nails decorated in heart decals, "She must have to work hard to keep her nails so pretty. I admire that." (Gag. This really is not my kind of a book.)

There are places in the story that cry out for a sharp editor. The crucial scene of the car accident, for example. "The car is eviscerated. The impact of a four-ton pickup truck going sixty miles an hour plowing straight into the passenger side had the force of an atom bomb." I was distracted by 'four-ton pickup.' I am familiar with 1/4-ton, 1/2-ton, 3/4-ton and one-ton pickups, but by the time you get to a truck of a size that can carry a load of 4 tons, it is no longer considered a pickup. It must be something like a big delivery truck. Unless the author means the weight of the pickup truck itself was four tons... but that is still bigger than any pickup I can imagine, which is more likely to weigh about two tons, I'm guessing. Maybe four tons. In that case, if the sentence was changed to "The four-ton impact of a truck...", readers like me wouldn't get all hung up on trying to picture what kind of pickup it was while reading a pivotal line in the novel.

In another scene, as Mia watches herself being operated upon, she says "I don't appear to feel anything, even though they are yanking at my body." Yet she also mentions that the anesthesiologist has gentle fingers. So can she feel those fingers or not?

I didn't give up on the book, so I concede that it did hold my interest through to the end. Mia and Adam's relationship had elements that I applaud in a teen novel. The only one I'll mention is when Mia lists the things they fought over, like her stealing the covers. I liked the way Forman slips in the fact they have slept together more than once, without going into any more detail about their sex lives.

No comments: