I finally picked up If I Stay this month for two reasons: one, I’d been meaning to read it since it came out in 2009, but kept forgetting about it. Two, I received an ARC of the sequel, Where She Went, and decided I’d better read the first one so I could make good use of the ARC. (Thanks, Simon & Schuster!)
And now I’m kicking myself for not having read this book sooner. I devoured this book in less than a day. The narration style just sucks you in, because you have to know if Mia will choose to live or die. And the way the narration switches back and forth between present tense and flashbacks is genius, because it allows for so much character development in such a short amount of time. The whole book takes place in under 24 hours, yet you really get to feel like you know these characters: Mia, her parents, Adam, Kim. I have to say I loved that even Mia’s parents, Kat and Denny, got their own flashbacks. Parents in YA are so often glossed over or made into caricatures, but getting to know Mia’s punk rocker parents before they were parents really gives you a sense of loss when they die, because they were made out to be whole people.
The way Mia and Adam’s relationship is represented is a little bit cheesy at time (their couple nickname is “Groovy and the Geek”? Seriously?), but still totally believable and unique. I also love the way music is at the root of so many of the relationships in this book: Mia, a classical musician, struggles to relate to her rocker boyfriend. Her parent’s relationship with each other is rooted in their love for music. A lot of YA books feature a protagonist who plays an instrument or who has a boyfriend in a rock band, but not many of them delve into what the music means to those people. It’s just a trait they have, a hobby. I love that so much of If I Stay explores how different people relate to music.
This book was so emotional and heartbreaking for me, and I almost immediately started reading the ARC of the sequel when I finished, because I had to know what the consequences of Mia’s decision would be, how the fallout would affect these characters I’d come to love. (Look for a review of Where She Went later this week.) If you’ve also been putting off reading this book, don’t put it off any longer. It’s absolutely a must-read.