Friday, August 1, 2014

If I Stay by Gayle Forman Came to Theaters as a Book-to-Movie, 08-22-14!

If I Stay by Gayle Forman. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     "What would you do if you had to choose?" (2402)

     Fairy Tales begin, "Once upon a time..." and so it did for one special mom, dad, a little boy, and his baby brother. In the fairy tale, once upon a time, "there was a snow day...and a drive in a car." Then, like most fairy tales, an evil King or witch, goblin, or troll appears and story takes on aspects of a horror story. Red Riding Hood's grand- mother is eaten, Hansel and Gretel are abandoned by their parents in a forest, an innocent girl pricks her finger on a spinning wheel and falls into an unwakable slumber. 

     Then, to everyone's horror, the beautiful, enchanted family are prey to mysterious powers and the family find themselves in a terrible car crash. The mom, the dad, the baby die, but the little boy is alive...hanging one knows why. Why is he hanging on tenaciously? Does he have a choice to make? Will he stay? Will he go? No one knows what happened in the little boy's dream world. We only know the the end, he left the world to be with his mom, his dad, and his little brother. The world mourned. This little fairy tale is actually the true story behind Gayle Forman's story, If I Stay.

     At the end of the book, Gayle Forman tells us what prompted her to write the story, If I Stay. She tells us how she was haunted by the little boy's story and wondered if he had a choice. Wondered if he chose to go with his family. She shares with us the grief of friends from around the country gathering in Oregon for an "ad-hoc wake." And while she admits the grief "cut to the bone," she also tells us of how she felt something else, something of the "divine." 

This beautiful quote is found at the end of the novel,
If I Stay by Gayle Forman at Kindle Location 2412. [3]
     Then after seven years, questions still haunted Gayle Forman. Did the little boy know the rest of his family was dead? Did he choose to go with them? Did he have a choice? It was while she was still thinking of these questions that a "total stranger," seventeen-year-old, cello playing Mia, "popped into [her] consciousness." Forman admits typing through tears, at times, but not because it was difficult, but because she felt a "transcendent grace from the days after the tragedy returned." She intimates that she felt as if her friends were there in the room with her as she wrote. She says that in a way her friends are still with her, as if they never really left. Forman tells us that's how she survived the "never goes away..." that "[l]ove can make you immortal." (Kindle location 2387-2412).

Cello Practice IV by Jenny Armitage. [4]
     If I Stay, by Gayle Forman, originally published in 2009, is a young adult novel inspired by real-life events. In the book, seventeen-year-old Mia and her family live in a warm, comforting house, in a relatively close-knit lifestyle. Mia loves her brother, Teddy, and, of course, her mom and dad. One eventful day, after it snowed, the schools closed for a "snow day."

     The family, opting to go for a car trip, suffer a horrible car accident as a pickup truck T-bones their car. Mia's body is lying in a ditch by the side of the road--she is in a coma; but what the people around her don't realize is that Mia is having an out-of-body experience. Mia leaves her body to see her father and mother dead, and her brother, Teddy being whisked away in an ambulance to a local hospital. Considered to be in critical condition, Mia is life-flighted to a hospital that can get her better care, and more quickly. She decides to get in the helicopter with her body.

     Over the hours that follow the accident, Mia watches as her friends and other family members gather together in the waiting room at the hospital; she sees them crying, hears their concerns. Mia also visualizes events of the past. Moments that were important to her. Mia watches as a nurse who is about to get off duty whispers in her ear that she wants to see Mia in the morning when she comes back to work. Mia realizes that she is the one who has a choice to make about staying or going.

Adam is Mia's boyfriend; he plays
the guitar in a band called,
Shooting Star. [5]
     Through the hours, Mia experiences heartache, and she hears words of love and encouragement. Mia watches as friends and family troop in to visit with her. She sees their tears and hears their pleas. Eventually, Mia sees her boyfriend (who plays guitar in the band, Shooting Star) come into the hospital and must face his words to her, as well. Mia flounders with the decision, eventually, making the one she thinks will be best. She wonders if she can face waking up with no family to return to. She wonders what will happen if she stays.

MY (SECOND) FAVORITE QUOTE: My absolute favorite quote is the one I gave you, above, about love, so I'm also sharing my second favorite quote with you. Here it is:
Gramps doesn't wipe his face or blow his nose. He just lets the tears fall where they may. And when the well of grief is momen- tarily dry, he steps forward and kisses me on the forehead. He looks like he's about to leave, but then he doubles back to my bedside, bends so his face is level with my ear and whispers into it...'It's okay,' he tells me. 'If you want to go. Everyone wants you to stay. I want you to stay more than I've wanted anything in my life.' His voice cracks with emotion. He stops, clears his throat, takes a breath, and continues. 'But that's what I want and I could see why it might not be what you want. So I just wanted to tell you that I understand if you go. It's okay if you have to leave us. It's okay if you want to stop fighting....' Gramp's recognition, and the permission he just offered me--it feels like a gift.

   Well, doesn't that just pull your heartstrings? It did mine. This quote is also about love, just as is the one at the top of the page. Mia's grandfather loves his granddaughter so much that he will, not willingly, but lovingly, let her go if that is what she really wants. Although I've given you a few small spoilers, here, I won't tell you what Mia chooses for herself. You just have to read the book.

     The most important thing I have to tell you about what worked for me in the book is that even though the book deals with the loss of Mia's family, I did NOT find the book to be "sad." As I eagerly read the book, knowing it was coming to the big screen in August of 2014, I anticipated some "downer" moments.

     In actuality, I found the book life affirming and hopeful. And, while we see Mia, and some of the supporting cast in tears and sad, those negative feelings are somehow not transmitted to the reader. Perhaps, as Gayle Forman said in the "afterword" portion of the book about what inspired her to write the book, she did feel some sort of divine inspiration or "transcendent grace" of some sort that was transmitted to the pages of the novel. I do believe that Forman still feels the presence of her lost friends with her and, of course, the love that never dies--carried on through to the pages of the book. I even found this book to be oddly inspirational.

For part of the book, Mia sat in her hospital
room observing those who came in
to speak  to her. [8]

     Second, I think that having the disembodied Mia describing for the reader the passing events almost gives it a feeling of being a step removed from emotion. After all, Mia is detached from her body. To me, it is like the sensation of driving in fog where you feel wrapped in cotton or you have some sort of sensory deprivation allowing you to get through the sadness. A feeling of unreality surrounds you and you move slowly through the fog, eventually arriving at the des- tination--and at Mia's decision.

     Third, I really liked the family dynamics. I liked how much Mia loved Teddy, and the wonderful bond they seemed to have together. And, even though the parents seemed to be a bit too permissive, I felt as if they really loved her. Not perfect parents, but loving parents.

A good book, but a
few things didn't
work for me. [9]
     First, I didn't like the name of Adam's band--Shooting Star. Really? Really? Come on Gayle, I think you could have done better than that. What is this? a band for old folks?

     Second, let's talk about Adam. It's not that I dislike Adam, but he was too, two-dimensional. We didn't see enough character development for such an important character--him playing a part in Mia's decision, and all. He didn't seem to have any/many flaws, and I would definitely have liked to see a little more texture to him. Maybe more involvement in getting Mia to actually play a piece with the band--something special that worked like the piece she and Adam played together that one time.

     With music being so (pardon the pun) "instrumental" in the two being together, more should have been done with that aspect of the relationship. Forman could have expanded this aspect in any number of ways. My whole point, here, is just that Adam was a rather flat character. I do realize, that Forman wanted to focus on Mia and her decision, but since Adam was instrumental in helping her to decide, more should have been done with Adam's character development.

     Gayle Forman may justifiably be proud of her book, If I Stay, coming to theaters on Friday, August 22, 2014. I'm always happy when a book I like comes to the big screen; to see what this new book-to-movie looks like in this Official Trailer 2 in [HD], let's take a quick look at it from YouTube. [10]

     Directing this movie is R.J. Cutler, known for (among other film productions): (2005), Flip That House, his 2009 film, The September Issue, and his 2012 film, Nashville. Starring in If I Stay is Chloe Grace Moretz as Mia, Jamie Blackley as Adam, Stacey Keach as Grandpa, Gabrielle Rose as Grandma, Jakob Davies as Teddy, Lauren Lee Smith as Willow, Aisha Hinds as Nurse Ramirez, and Mirelle Enos as Kat. [11]

     Since the movie, If I Stay, MPAA rating is PG-13, for thematic elements and some sexual material, I would, likewise rate the book similarly. Those persons who are of a sensitive nature or below the suggested reading age, should consider the MPAA movie rating. All of those, especially young adults, who are within the target age range, should consider reading this lovely book. [11]

A good rating for a good book:
4.0 stars out of 5. [12]
     For all the reasons I have given, above, I give this poignant book 4.0 stars out of 5. I would not hesitate to recommend this book to young adults, and heartily do so.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we looked at a very popular YA novel, If I Stay. I really enjoyed this book and hope you will enjoy it as well. I give it a thumbs up. Until next week, don't forget to pick a book or some other good reading material and read for just a bit each day. Your wonderful mind will be the better for it. God bless and keep you all. I send everyone my love.

Until next time...
A double white Rose of Sharon. [13]
...many happy pages of reading!

All my love,


[1] "If I Stay." Retrieved 07-22-14.
[2] "Your Very Own Adoption Story." Retrieved 07-30-14.
[3] "Best Quotes and Sayings...." Retrieved 07-30-14.
[4] "Cello Painting Originals: Cello Practice IV." [Jenny Armitage] Retrieved 07-31-14.
[5] "Re: FoFiX logo ideas [MAKE A CHOICE]." Retrieved 07-31-14.
[6] "It's okay! Go on without me!" [sad cat graphic] Retrieved 07-31-14.
[7] "Get Nerdy." [graphic "Praise...worked!"] Retrieved 07-31-14.
[8] "Out of Body Experiences." [graphic OBE] Retrieved 07-31-14.
[9] "This Isn't Happiness." [graphic "It didn't work out."] Retrieved 07-31-14.
[10] "If I Stay." [trailer] Retrieved 07-31-14.
[11] "If I Stay." [movie info.] Retrieved 07-31-14.
[12] "Archos 5 Review." [4 Stars out of 5] Retrieved 07-31-14.
[13] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 06-18-14.