If I Stay by Gayle Forman

The best things come in small packages. If I Stay by Gayle Forman comes in at a whopping 196 pages. I read it in one day, but I was not prepared for the huge impact it would have on me.

If I Stay is the story of Mia, a classical cellist with a cool family and a rock star boyfriend. She is plagued by the decision to go to New York City for Julliard or stay in her hometown and go to the same college as her boyfriend. When a catastrophic event changes her world as she knows it, she must decide – in more ways than one — if she should stay.

I was absolutely blown away. I completely underestimated this novel. I picked it up at the library as an afterthought thinking I would get to it if I could, man am I glad that I did. Mia is such a strong, wonderful character. She comes off as shy and quiet but in reality underneath it all she’s an independent firecracker. I LOVE that about her. One of the many reasons a guitar-playing bad boy would fall in love with a serious classical music-playing cellist.

This novel was so beautifully written. I love the way music and love is tied together in the imagery. There was this sensual moment that Adam wants Mia to “play” him like a cello, and he, in turn, plays her like a guitar. It was a very intimate analogy done in good taste. I could practically see the classical/rock montage as they both played each other in those quiet, passionate moments. It was so unique; it took my breath away.

Initially, I thought this story was all about choosing whether or not she should choose her love of music over her boyfriend. I could completely relate. When I was in high school, I had to choose between my boyfriend at the time and going away to college on the other side of the country. As you can see, I chose college and that boy and I didn’t work out. So reading her struggle with the decision, the omissions and little lies to protect each other’s hearts, and the awkwardness were totally in tune with the reality of the situation. I was so enveloped in the story; it totally hit home for me, but this story is so much more than that.

There was a brief moment when I was perturbed that she wasn’t more upset about the gravity of the situation but later I could see how the shock of losing everything could make her feel numb and unable to accept what was happening.

I really, really liked this book. It is a tear-jerker but the good kind. I had to pick myself off the floor after reading it so I wouldn’t fall into a sense of mourning, but it was so unbelievably touching. It was written so well, it seemed effortless yet there were so many layers and complexities in the telling of the story. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who needs to escape and come out refreshed with a renewed appreciation for the importance of love, no matter how much it hurts.

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