If I Stay has been on my radar for quite awhile, because everyone and their kittens were reading it a couple years ago. It took getting it’s sequel Where She Went for review, to actually give me the push I needed to read it because I don’t do seconds without doing firsts. I’ll admit it; I dragged my feet because I just knew this book was going to make me cry. And oh my goodness gracious did it ever make me cry. In one of those good ways, like meeting your baby for the first time, or watching Sleepless in Seattle late at night when no one is home and you’ve consumed half a bottle of wine, or slicing onions. That kind of cry.
If I Stay is about 17-year-old Mia. Her life is like most teenagers. She’s social awkward. Her parents are weird. There are good things. She has an amazing best friend. She loves her little brother. And she has an amazingly hot boyfriend. And despite the weird parents, they all get along amazingly well. She actually loves spending time with them. So, when an unexpected snow day comes up, they all pile in the car to go out for some fun.
Then the completely unexpected happens. Mia finds herself standing in the road. The car has been smashed. Her dad is lying in the road, his brains scattered across the pavement. Her mom, despite looking completely okay, is also dead. While desperately looking for her brother, Teddy, she finds herself. Lying in a ditch. Her leg is at an awkward angle and her shirt is soaked with blood. She freezes in horror, not sure what’s going on, but knowing she is completely scared out of her mind.
Next thing she knows, paramedics and police are racing around, gathering up the broken remnants of her family and hustling her off to the hospital. She tags along with her body; afraid to leave it for too long and confused about the state she is in. She discovers that she is in a comatose state and that it is her decision to stay, or go. What follows is the witness of a soul fighting with that decision. Does she chose to stay with her friends and what family remains, or go with the rest of her family, to wherever they have gone?
This is where I almost wish I had read the book instead of listened to it. Not because I didn’t enjoy the audio; I loved it. I wish I had read it though, because there were so many lovely little quotes, little scenes, I wish I could have made note of. Forman has a quiet way of sneaking up on you. I could be listening to a scene, thinking, “oh, this is sweet and sad and so gentle and quiet” and then just WHAM. She throws in a quiet sentence, a profound sentence, the kind that completely smacks you upside the head with it’s moving way of just putting things in perspective, to make you realize just how gutted she feels that her family is gone and how she’s not sure she wants to come back, to live any more, and BAM I would be sobbing as I drove down the road. It’s the details. Forman knows how to write the details. There are times when I read a book like this that I feel so manipulated it just pisses me off. I felt manipulated by this book, but not in a heavy-handed way. It completely did not piss me off. It left me a little bit in love with this book, and I am SO GLAD I have the sequel, which I am already reading. We may as well call this Gayle Forman week, as my review of Where She Went will be up Thursday.
Here are a few quotes I was able to find online that I particularly liked:
Sleep would be so welcome. A warm blanket of black to erase everything else. Sleep without dreams. I’ve heard people talk about the sleep of the dead. Is that what death would feel like? The nicest, warmest, heaviest never-ending nap? If that’s what it’s like, I wouldn’t mind. If that’s what dying is like, I wouldn’t mind that at all.
All I can think about is how fucked up it would be for your life to end here, now. I mean I know that your life if fucked up no matter what now, forever. And I’m not dumb enough to think that I can undo that, that anyone can. But I can’t wrap my mind around the notion of you not getting old, having kids, going to Juilliard, getting to play that cello in front of a huge audience, so that they can get the chills the way I do every time I see you pick up your bow, every time I see you smile at me.
Adam is crying and somewhere inside of me I am crying, too, because I’m feeling things at last. I’m feeling not just the physical pain, but all that I have lost, and it is profound and catastrophic and will leave a crater in me that nothing will ever fill.