Friday, February 1, 2013
Literary PSA: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Recently I decided to start a NEW THING: Literary Public Service Announcements. Essentially, I'm going to pimp a book that I read before I started blogging, but that I want to foist upon the world due to it's high levels of sheer awesomeness, for the good of the public and all that jazz. Instead of me just telling people over and over that they should read something "JUST BECAUSE!!!1!", I've decided to actually explain in a more eloquent fashion just why my favorite books are my favorites.
Last time on Literary Public Service Announcements: LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld.
And now this week's PSA:
In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...
A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands. Goodreads
That synopsis doesn't exactly tell you what this book is about. Basically, it's about Mia, a musically talented girl with pretty much the greatest family ever. One day, they get into a car crash. Mia is in a coma, but somehow she's able to watch from outside as horrible things happen, and she must decide if she's going to stay, or if she's going to go.
This is a very famous book, and I'm sure a lot of you have read it. But if you haven't, and are skeptical, I probably know what some of you're thinking. "Girl in coma? Dead family? Grieving boyfriend? Isn't that all just a little emotionally manipulative? Like, you are just asking me to cry myself senseless." To which I say YES. ABSOLUTELY. One hundred percent. This is completely engineered not just to tug on the heartstrings, but to rip them from your chest, tie them in knot, and throw them into the sea.
I have a love-hate relationship with being emotionally manipulated. I'm the kind of person who cries in commercials. If anything remotely sad happens in a movie, I'm in floods. When I saw Toy Story 3 in a theater full of children, I was that freak in the back sobbing great, big, chest-heaving sobs behind her stupid 3D glasses (I am a very cool date). So basically, I know I'm going to cry when I pick up a book like that. The question is, is it going to feel cheap?
See, I like when authors torture their characters, and as long as that is well done-- as long as it is organic to the characters and doesn't strain my credibility too much-- I'll enjoy the sobs. As long the real drama comes from the characters themselves.
If I Stay does. I mean, yes, it starts off with a horrible fatal car crash, but the beauty of this book is in the characters. Even the dead characters are completely alive on the page. There is so much personality in this book, so much beautiful writing, so many characters you just want to hug. Mia is an amazing introspective girl. Kim is one of my favorite literary besties in all of YA. And I swear, Mia's parents are THE BEST parents I've ever read about. They're hilarious ex-punk rockers, now trying to be more mature for their second child, adorable and funny Teddy. What I love about this book is that despite how totally soul-wrenching it is, it's also got a sense of humor. I laughed a lot through my tears.
And then of course there's Adam. I put him on my list of future fictional husbands for a reason. This guy's got feels. The things he goes through for Mia... I just... I forget how to form sentences. This book has a gorgeous and layered portrayal of love in so many forms.
Plus, you will be WEEPING LIKE A BABY. I felt like I knew these characters. I remember the first time I read this book. It had just come out and I knew nothing about it. I was like, "Hey, pretty cover. Ooh, sad synopsis. But I'm in the mood for a soap opera. Let's go!" I started reading it in the bath, but then it became of one those things where you CAN'T LEAVE until you finish so you're in there until the water is cold and you're all pruney and you're just crying alone in a bathtub and it's weird.
This is the kind of book that sticks with you, even though I have trouble rereading parts of it due to SEARING EMOTIONAL PAIN. But if you love contemporary with a twist, real, emotional journeys, character development for plot, and crying until you shrivel up, you should definitely NOT miss If I Stay. It's well on its way to becoming a YA classic (and a movie!) Plus, there's an amazing sequel from Adam's point of view.