If I Stay, Gayle Forman

Dutton Juvenile, 2009, 201 pages (hardcover)

It’s a regular Monday night and I’m just wising up to the fact that I still run a blog. Sorry if it hasn’t felt that way – life can sometimes change in an instant, for better or for worse. Priorities tend to shift in those moments. Which is a good lead-in for this latest review!

If I Stay follows an intriguing premise. A shy, cello-playing seventeen-year-old named Mia has just barely survived a car crash. One second she’s riding along with her family, and the next, she’s watching the wreckage from across the street. What follows are her lengthy out-of-body observations en route to and inside the hospital, while her body remains in its coma.

While I like the concept and appreciated a truly unique first-person perspective, I’ve concluded that this novel is overrated. Hand it to an eleven-year-old girl with a romantic streak and she’ll probably say it’s the saddest book ever. Truth is, while it’s got its definitive sad moments (those come with the territory), the plot for me actually wore a little thin. The bulk of the novel is shaped from flashbacks to happier times. Sure, this is about the only way to lengthen any book with a comatose protagonist, but I actually thought a lot of the dialogue and exchanges between Mia and her boyfriend Adam, and Mia and her parents felt unrealistic. I also felt the author overselling the irony of it all. The foreshadowing was too obvious and as a result took on this “see how profound this is?” quality that I didn’t love.

All this said, I think Forman has a talent for keeping her readers turning pages, and I’d happily read the follow-up novel (Where She Went) if it were to fall in my hands. I’m also pretty excited to see the movie, which is supposedly slated for this December. I have a feeling a lot of what this book is will work better on screen.

All You Get is Me, Yvonne Prinz

Harper Collins, 2011

Thus continues my love of YA! I randomly picked this one up at the library, for some reason drawn to the simple yet dynamic cover. Taglines for the book quote it as a story about “a summer of love, loss, justice and chickens“. What’s not to like?

So this is how it goes: Aurora Audley, or “Roar”, is carted from her big city life to a small, dumpy, organic Californian farm by her dad. Her mother left them after months of depression and flightiness, and her father’s way of dealing with it is to become a farmer. I loved Roar’s attitude about it. With humour and good nature she explains to her reader the simple life of an organic farm girl. Her chore is taking care of the chickens, and I laughed every time she talked about them. No matter how much love she tries to show them, they remain frustratingly oblivious.

This was more than a lovely little farm story, though.   Continue reading