If I Stay... - A Book Review - Reading List

If I Stay... - A Book Review

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

There are times when I pick up a book simply because I've heard the title so many times.  The media has gotten their claws on it and they are filling corners with a certain title.  To be honest, this persuasion usually leads to a horrible read, leaving me upset and frustrated over the wasted time.  I always tell myself I won't be sucked into that phenomenon again, but alas, I have yet to truly learn my lesson.  That all being said when  I sat down with the popular If I Stay... novel  by Gayle Forman, I was pleasantly surprised.

They style of If I Stay... is completely different than any book I've picked up since I as in school and it was a pleasant change of pace because of that.  This piece of fiction takes a look into a world that many people fear and most of us have no clue as to how it would work.  Forman has crafted a story that looks at the choice to stay alive or to leave this world, and we aren't talking about suicide at all.

If I Stay.... by Gayle Forman    A Book Review on Reading List

Story Overview 

If I Stay is a young adult novel that follows Mia as she is forced to decide between living and following her family into the world after life.  Mia and her family are in a horrific crash that takes the lives of her mother, father and brother.  The story comes in a series of thoughts and flashbacks as Mia struggles with the choice to open her eyes and join the world again or let go and follow her family. As Gayle Forman says, even those this is a book dealing with death on almost every page, love is at the heart of the story. Somehow that love keeps such a heavy subject matter from crushing the reader.

Personal Likes

I really enjoyed the point of view and voice that Mia gives us in this book.  She is in a coma in a hospital throughout the book.  There isn't a ton of action, with the exception of the car crash that kicks of the events of this story, and yet the voice keeps pulling us forward waiting to see what Mia decides. 

There are so many books about death, about giving up and wishing for a quick escape.  And yet the idea that death separates us from the world, meaning we will have to leave some of this world behind no matter what is on the other side of life (granted I do believe that heaven is waiting for those of us who know Jesus, and therefore that side will be amazing...) doesn't seem to be in those stories ever.  That is not the case in If I Stay. In fact Mia wrestles over that exact point through the entire book - is it better to try to live with those people still alive, to make an impact on the world, or is it better to let go and find the unknown beyond life.

This book explores the idea that our will is powerful. Ultimately it suggests, that we can will ourselves to live through anything. So on that concept, it is easy to ponder just how significant it is to let go of our human will and bend into God's will - what a gift to the One who created and sacrificed to show us love.

If I Stay....  A Book Review on Reading List

Personal Dislikes

My main dislike on this book was that with the subject of death as the focus, I felt like heaven and God should have found a way in, naturally. Yes I know that this is a secular book, but it seems that no matter what a person claims to believe during the mundane routine of life, when death is staring him in the face God, heaven and faith always creep in.  And that was missing in this book completely.

Also, this was obviously a young adult novel - the phrases were one hundred percent directed to the current young adult audience.  It made me realize that I am certainly past that stage of life, and while this might not be a bad thing, I felt like the author missed out on allowing her book to speak to generations. But that is the thing about writing, we get to pick our audiences and we can write to them alone if we so choose.  So this is a minor drawback.

Reasons to Read

As a Christian, this might not be at the top of your to read list.  It deals with a subject that we are not as afraid of, at least I would hope you have found security in your faith...  However, it is a popular book, in fact it's a movie (I haven't seen the movie as of yet...) now!  So there is a chance that if you have a teenager this might sneak into her to read list.  And that is why you should at least be willing to read this one.

This book allows us the chance to discuss death with some of the crushing emotion that is inevitable. As parents we should be interested in our children's thoughts and feelings on death and the afterlife. And there is no denying that this book opens up that discussion. 

Besides, it is a fun read, and quick.  Who knows, maybe you'll be confronted with your own fears over death....

Reading List Rating

Overall, I did like this book. There were some good ideas explored, and for teenagers it opened up thought on a subject that many ignore!  But there were many times where the memories, flashbacks and thoughts seemed extremely disjointed, so I have to give this a rating of three hearts.  
three heart rating from Reading List

My Suggested Audience

This is a young adult fiction piece according to the publishers, and I can totally agree with young adult, and not really preteen lit. The topics of death and afterlife, love and family are explored with the depth that will sit better with a mature reader.  While the scenes are fairly clean and there is little in the way of sexual or violent scenes. However the tone and the subject matter can sit heavy on a young mind and heart, so I recommend readers that are at least 14 years old in maturity.

While the subject of death is one that impacts all of us, I do think that many adults could gain a ton from this book.  Fair warning though, that Mia is a young girl and her voice is young... 

 Have you discussed with your kids death and heaven? Did they surprise you with their thoughts? Do you think books that explore heavy topics, like death, are necessary for teenagers to read?

I'd love to hear from you, please leave me a little note!

Marissa @ Reading List

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