Saturday, August 2, 2014
If I Stay, Gayle Forman
Hmm. I think around 3.5 ish starts of 5 is my assessment.
My copy of the book from the library had on the back a picture of the book's sequel. Talk about a spoiler alert! I don't know if the author ever wanted you to really question whether or not Mia (the protagonist) would choose to stay or not. Dialog in the book suggests that Mia seriously thinks she's just going to let go and not stay, but with Mia plastered on the sequel's cover looking very much alive, it really takes out all the guess work. So I suppose it could have been more suspenseful as well.
Then there was the writing style. It felt really young. I'm not usually one to be picky about writing style, but in some ways it just felt young, immature. But I can give the benefit of the doubt that because it was from a teenager's point of view, it should SOUND like a teenager. And it did.
The story was heartfelt enough, but I did not enjoy the casual use of the "f" word. I get that this is how a LOT of teens talk, this IS their normal casual language. But even JK Rowling was able to add LOT more "swearing" to the Harry Potter series without spelling them out aka "he swore under his breath". The other part I didn't enjoy was (and I get that this is the norm too, I just don't agree with it and therefore it tainted my experience reading the book) the permissiveness of Mia's parents with everything. The minute she gets her first boyfriend, her mom is telling her that they'll go get birth control from Planned Parenthood and gives her a box of condoms to start out with. This is before she is even intimate with the guy-or is even thinking about it! AND he sleeps over. In her room. At her house where she lives with her parents. Does this really happen a lot? Is this really normal? Is it really THAT naive to think that one can have a relationship with someone that does NOT involve sex? Especially as a teenager. Her mom even mentions that 17 is a really inconvenient time to fall in love, since her boyfriend, Adam is in a band that is getting really successful and she's hoping to go to Juilliard which is across the country. And the book both in text AND in the readers guide suggest how mature of a couple Adam and Mia are, how they aren't the typical "high school" couple. Which is true in some sense, they don't fight about petty things or have jealousy issues. They look at life and people in a more mature way. But wouldn't it be mature to think about your future, think about what the emotional repercussions would be if they took their relationship to a certain physical level only to be separated for long periods of time physically by distance? It seems to tear both of them up that they might be apart from each other, neither one wanting the other to give up their dreams and I just feel it might not have been so bad had they had a more casual, less physical relationship. Especially in high school. I don't like that so many YA books these days give teens the expectation that relationships = sex, especially if you are going to be "mature" about your relationship. I get that it happens. I don't agree with it, and I know there are many kids out there who choose to be virgins through high school and have great relationships regardless. I just don't want kids who haven't made a true inward exploration of what they believe to be right for themselves to have this type of expectation plugged into their mindset. I feel it disturbs their ability to truly sort out what THEY need instead of what they feel they "should" do if they want to be "normal".
Some things I enjoyed a lot were: this story takes place in rural Oregon and Portland, which I frequented as I grew up. It's always nice to read about places that I've actually been to and I can have a great mental image of. Also, Mia is a classical musician, a cellist. While I'm not a string player, I am a classical musician (flute) so I could understand quite a bit of Mia and how she feels she is perceived and her connection to music. I absolutely LOVED the role that classical music played in her recovery. Elizabeth Smart attributes playing the harp as a classical musician to her psychological recover from her 9 month abduction period. Mia had traumatic brain injuries from a car wreck, which involved physical as well as psychological injuries and having her play her cello strengthened every one of her weaknesses. I love her relationship with her family and her grandparents and the friends who serve as extended family. I love her dedication to something she loves, even if it's "dorky".
I'll probably watch the movie adaptation, when it comes out on redbox and I have a code. They already changed one significant thing-Adam doesn't write her a song! He begs her to NOT make him write a song for her. (He's not good at the sappy love song thing, he claims she'd have to cheat on him or something in order for him to write a song about her). But it looks like they do a pretty good job, considering the story starts in the now and then Mia has this out of body experience and her life story is told in flashbacks. Chloe Grace Moretz is playing Mia and I'm absolutely thrilled that she decided to learn to play the cello in real life for this role. However, as a classical musician, I can tell you there is no way on Earth she will be doing the real playing for the Juilliard Audition segment. You can't get THAT crazy good in a year. I absolutely believe she will truly play some for real, but I'm fairly familiar with several of the pieces Mia mentions she's learning and playing and the audition list, as Forman mentions, was taken straight off their website for required audition material. And that stuff ain't easy. I looked at the flute requirements. Yeah. I could NOT have done that out of high school. Only slight possibility of doing that AFTER a college education and that would only get me to do a bachelor's all over again....lol. But I do appreciate SO much that Chloe WILL look the part and have proper technique and vibrato and all of those things. And FINALLY an actress who really is the same age as the person she is portraying. That goes a LONG way in believability for me.
There was a sneak peak at the sequel, which looks like it's either all from Adam's perspective, but perhaps a split narrative will happen? Based on the teaser, you know she does leave for NY and Juilliard and also doesn't do the long distance relationship with Adam, which absolutely kills him. Even though he told her that he could handle losing her that way if he didn't have to lose her to death. It was HIS idea to play cello music to her through headphones that jolts her back, finally, out of her coma and back to life. HE is the one who brings Mia her cello the instant she asks for it to play that aids in her faster than expected recovery. I just can't really understand why after all this, Mia would purposefully put a wedge between them when in today's day and age of technology it makes having a long distance relationship easier-and more affordable-than ever! I used to save baby-sitting and piano teaching money to put money on my phone card to call my long distance boyfriend because it was expensive! Now for the price you are already paying for internet, you can video chat! But I'm sure it's just Mia's messed up view of herself and her worthiness of Adam and not wanting to hold him back or something (I guess it's a messed up complex similar to Bella Swan in Twilight). But only time will tell. And yes, I'm a sucker for knowing what happens, and since the swearing wasn't nearly as bad as that Rowling book "A Casual Vacancy" I think I'll read the sequel. Which just so happens to be on the shelf at my local library branch. Guess I know where I'll be Monday morning when it opens!