Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Musings: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay

If I Stay has gotten some press recently, since the sequel Where She Went comes out in April. I've seen the book rec'ed a few places because of that. Also, I saw a book trailer that I now think I must have dreamed, because I can't find it anywhere, and it's not one of the two trailers on the book's website.

But that's neither here nor there. Book Musings are about learning about craft from the book, not me hallucinating book trailers. So: the book is a Lovely Bones-esque look at the day after Mia's family is killed in a car accident. She is unconscious, and also watching her body from outside, trying to decided whether or not to stay. Unique, definitely.

One of the reviews on Goodreads points out that Forman uses speech verbs such as "volleyed". I noticed that, in the beginning, but since I sometimes wonder if we do words a disservice by eliminating dialogue tags from our repertoires I disagree. Sparingly, maybe it is okay to remind us that these words exist somewhere other than the bowels of the OED.

Onward: I liked Mia, and was heartbroken for her. Her romance with Adam was sweet, and credible. Her family was caring, and one really got what she was losing with their deaths. But... well... to me the beginning of the story wasn't as jarring until after I had the backstory. After I understood her family, I cared about their deaths. And I started to care about Mia later in the book. I almost think the novel could have started further back, and dealt with the aftermath as well. I'm excited about the sequel for that reason. I want to see what Mia's life is like without her family, not just what it might be like.

I didn't feel as touched by the book as perhaps I should. It's short-- my library eBook was only 118 pages-- and I've read books sort of like it. The Lovely Bones and Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevon spring to mind. The concept isn't what kept me going, it's the characters. The rock 'n' roll parents, Mia with her cello. I think it could have been a wonderful character driven story, but I also liked that these characters existed within a high concept plot.

The tense shifts interested me as well, and they were done well. I did think it could have been more fluid if ghost-Mia was drawn into the flashbacks somehow, for some reason or to learn some lesson. We're never quite sure why she gets to sit by her body like that, and I'd like to know. Perhaps it's a thread that was cut to make the book more streamline-unnecessary in my opinion.

A reviewer also commented that Forman didn't get the voices of teenagers, and I totally disagree there. Teens are all different, and I loved Mia's voice. I loved the way music was integrated with the story, and it gives me confidence for my own music-saturated WIP.

I learned the importance of fleshed-out secondary characters from this, and the ways in which a few rules of structure can be broken to fashion a very unique piece. I'd definitely recommend the book.


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