If I Stay (The Book)
I don’t typically like reading about death. It scares the crap out of me; it makes me anxious. Maybe that’s juvenile to say, but at least I can identify those feelings and try to work through them.
I decided to read If I Stay by Gayle Forman after seeing the movie trailer. It wasn’t long YA novel; I read it in a day. The main character, high school student and cellist extraordinaire Mia Hall, gets into a car accident with her parents and her younger brother, landing her in a coma. While in an unconscious state, Mia reflects on her life. She has an existential experience and although she is in a coma, she digests the horrific news that her family has died. She also sees her family, friends, and rocker boyfriend (Adam) who come to visit her beside, all through this out-of-body experience. Mia soon realizes that she has been given a rare choice: she can chose if she wants to stay alive or join her family in death.
The one thing I’ll note about this novel is that it contains almost all back story. This is something that as writers, we are told to stay away from. Since the way this book is laid out means a lot of back story serving as ‘memories’ is necessary, I thought that Forman did a good job at transitioning back into the present while keeping us entertained with the past. It was very reflective and I think true to how a young girl would react to such a tragedy.
If I Stay (The Movie)
I applaud this type of YA film making it to Hollywood, as it strays from the typical young adult romances that end up on the silver screen; it provides something deeper. In fact, I may have actually enjoyed the movie the same, if not more, than the book. I loved the way the parents were portrayed; in truth, my friend Jane and I looked at one another as we watched the film and decided we wanted to be cool parents one day like the Halls. Mia was played by the up-and-comer Chloe Grace Moretz, and her boyfriend Adam was played by Jamie Blackley, both of whom are super talented (especially Jamie!).
I’ll admit, I was curious how they were going to make a movie that consists 90% of back story. But director R.J Cutler did a great job of weaving the back story in and out of the present events.
Lastly, on a musical front, it was great to see the punk rock anthems mentioned in the book come to life on the big screen, as Adam and his band were perfectly cast. However, I could be considered biased; I was a little pop punk rocker girl in high school and was nostalgic for that genre of music as I watched and listened. So, there’s your warning, and I definitely suggest checking out the soundtrack, if nothing else.
Where She Went (If I Stay sequel)
Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay, and takes place three years after Mia’s accident. The book starts with Mia and Adam broken up, and this time the story is told from Adam’s perspective. The reader finds out that after Mia’s accident, she received acceptance to Julliard, moved across the country and after a few weeks, stopped speaking to Adam.
And Adam was, and still is, quite devastated.
Adam’s rock career has taken off during their time apart; his bands biggest album was inspired by his breakout with Mia and ended up going platinum. On the surface, Adam Wilde looks like the guy who has it all: beautiful celebrity girlfriend, new album, a big house in LA, and an upcoming European tour. But life as a celebrity isn’t all that it seems. He’s not coping with being a movie star the way he would have thought; he’s taking anxiety meds, chain smokes, has mood swings, feels that his relationship with his girlfriend is ‘surface’ and barely speaks to his band any more. Plus, he still isn’t over Mia.
So, when Adam is in New York before heading out to meet the band for the European tour, he walks down a cobblestones street and sees a sign for a performance at Carnagie Hall, starring the one and only Mia Hall. He buys one of the last tickets available and takes a seat in the back.
After the performance, an usher approaches Adam and tells him Mia had requested to see him. This is where the story really begins. For the next one hundred and fifty pages, Adam and Mia explore the city, their night peppered with relived joint memories and flashbacks of Adam’s issues over the past few years.
Throughout this story, we find out how Mia coped and grieved the death of her parents without Adam, friends and family around. We discover what happened when Adam went through his downward spiral, and we find out how the two learn to forgive, let go and love again.
While the sequel isn’t as good as the first, Where She Went seems like a plausible story, educating the reader on how Mia and Adam dealt with grief in their own ways. It was a heavy tale, Adam full of aggression and confusion, and Mia acting as though the two of them are just old friends without much history, but the story lightens at the end.
And of course, the book didn’t only offer closure for Adam and Mia, but offered closure for me as well. After all, I’m a sucker for happy endings.