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If I Stay

If I Stay - Gayle Forman This review and others are posted at Read, Rinse, Repeat.

I feel for the readers who picked up "If I Stay" soon after it was released, because the ending is one of the most breathless cliffhangers I've ever read. I'm happy that I have the sequel, Where She Went, right here beside me.

"If I Stay" is a story about the value of life. At what point is life no longer worth living? Seventeen-year-old Mia must find these answers when a devastating car crash kills Mia's parents and leaves her with life-threatening injuries. She detaches from her body at the scene of the accident, and she sees the corpses of her parents and her own mangled body. But where is her little brother, Teddy? She sees her body brought to the hospital as the doctors and nurses frantically work to save her. As her friends and family visit, Mia gathers information and observes the reactions of her loved ones.

The plot moves back and forth in time from Mia's unconscious state in the hospital to recollections of earlier points in her life. These jumps in time were sometimes jarring, and they sometimes seemed as though they were being relayed by a reporter rather than by Mia herself. I understand these scenes were necessary to give us a sense of the importance of Mia's loved ones and to let us know what she has already lost, as well as what she stands to lose if she also dies. I just wish the scenes were conveyed with more emotion. I found myself much more interested in the present hospital scenes and wondering if there was some other story-telling device that could have been used to relay Mia's past.

Much of the focus is on Mia's boyfriend, but I really didn't "get" them as a couple until a heart-breaking scene near the end when Adam speaks to the comatose Mia. This was a short scene, but so wonderfully written that I had to reread it several times. Mia's relationship with her best friend, Kim, by contrast felt true and solid. The "reporting" scenes established that wonderfully, as well as the bond between Mia and her family members.

I should be going to bed now, but I won't be able to sleep until I see what happens with that cliffhanger.