If I Stay

If I Stay - Gayle Forman I'm probably one of the very few people who wasn't completely enamored with Gayle Forman's "If I Stay". Don't get me wrong, I liked parts of it, and I will admit I appreciated the sentiments behind the work. There were, in spurts, beautifully written scenes that tugged at my heartstrings, but I felt a little underwhelmed finishing the novel. Having time to reflect upon the whole of it, I realize that it could've been a lot stronger than what it was. Before I delve into why I interpreted the work in this way, I'll give a brief summary of what the novel entails.17-year old Mia Hall faces a tough decision in whether she should live or die in the aftermath of a tragic car accident that takes the lives of the members of her family. If she chooses life, she'll be an orphan, but if she chooses death, she'll leave her future and the people who care about her in life behind. Much of the novel is written in a series of exchanges, between flashbacks to important events in Mia's life to the present day, where Mia fights for her life in the hospital while her spirit body watches all that unfolds around her. There were singular moments that moved me, such as Mia's realization of her and her family's deaths, her grandparents at her bedside in the hospital, and the dedication that her boyfriend, Adam, shows when he begs for her to pull through. I didn't cry, but those scenes were remarkably potent in and of themselves.Still, the desperation in Mia's decision to choose life or death really doesn't have as much immediacy in the larger work, if taken in pieces from beginning to middle to end. One part of this is for the way that the work is written, Mia's character really isn't involved in the recollection of these memories in any particular order or with many immediate links. Rather, they're shown to the reader in flashbacks that range from problems she's had with her boyfriend, to more pleasant memories with her family, to her pursuit of a budding music career and potential acceptance at Julliard, for better or worse considerations. While these considerations should have more intimacy in areas, there are times when they slow the momentum of the story down. It's not so much that there should be more conflict in her life - you're getting her life story and what's said to have emotional significance to her. But the catharsis in several of these memories just isn't there. On a surface level it is, but you're not left to wonder about some of the themes and issues it raises as a reader rather than it being told to you. It put a bit of distance between the narrator, the events, and the reader roles.If I could highlight one character which Forman does right in terms of conviction: the scenes with Adam were well done with showing his pain in the present and his desperation to reach Mia (which is one of the reasons why I'll read the sequel, because I've heard it's written from his perspective). But if I were to consider the cohesiveness of the novel and the ability to maintain this sense of cathartic intimacy collectively throughout the work, it wasn't there for me, and it probably explains why the story didn't make me cry or instill the fear of death/life in me.Overall, I liked the novel for what it offered, but I felt the method by which this story was told and Mia's voice didn't resonate with me as well as other novels have within this same theme. It's a good story, and one I would recommend to those who want a realistic view of a girl's reflection on life and the decision she makes in considering her life and choices, but I think it could've offered more to the table.Overall score: 3/5