IF I STAY (Dutton, 2009) we've only had a few pages to get to know the family involved. This is a good thing, because the car wreck is just awful, instantly killing high school senior Mia's parents. The scene is quite difficult to read as it is and if I already loved these characters (something I do by the end), I honestly don't know if I could have stood it.
Mia stands amidst the wreckage, thinking she must have been thrown clear somehow -- until she finds her broken body. She's not dead, but she's badly hurt and in a coma. Mia spends the rest of the book watching her family and friends deal with the aftermath and reliving memories that create an increasingly vibrant picture of them and the family she's lost. Mia ultimately realizes it's up to her to decide whether she goes on to whatever's next or stays to live a life filled with potential.
Based on a personal tragedy, Gayle Forman deftly paints layer upon layer of emotion with each flashback, revealing how life experiences (no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time) are as much a part of who we are as is our DNA. From Mia's relationship with her boyfriend to her punk-rock loving parents, to her talent as a cellist, to her grandmother's belief that dead friends and family visit as animal spirits -- these are the kinds of things that weave together to form a tether connecting Mia to the living world. But does she have the strength to go on without the people she loves most? Wouldn't it be easier just to let go? What will happen if she stays?
The first book in a duology that continues with WHERE SHE WENT, IF I STAY is a poignant, emotional read that alternately makes you smile and cry, and hold your loved ones a little tighter ... a little longer. Highly recommended.