** spoiler alert **
I'm still crying as I write this review. And I'm hiding from my all-male family because I don't want them to see me crying. Guys just don't get the crying-over-a-book thing. I feel in a daze...as if this story personally happened to me. In a way it has. I recently lost my sister to cancer. She, unfortunately, didn't have the choice to stay or go. She wanted to stay...she fought to the bitter end to stay...but the cancer was too powerful. I believe that when you tell a dying person it's OK to go, they hear it, feel comforted by it, and let go. In fact, I think they're waiting for it. I watched this happen. But I also believe some people may be on the brink of life or death and can choose which way to go. This book has really made me think about that--what would I do if faced with Mia's choice? As a teenage girl, I may have made the same decision she did. There's so much life left to live. But today, at 50, I think I would choose to go. I still believe there's a lot of life left to live but I don't think I could withstand the loss of my entire family. I love that this book could make me face a difficult decision like that.
If I Stay made me cry because I fell in love with Mia's family. How could such wonderful parents be taken away in such a horrible fashion? You can ask why, why, why, but there is no answer. And I cried because I hated the pain Mia was going through, both physical and emotional, and I hated thinking about the pain she was going to have to face in the future. The movie It's a Wonderful Life was mentioned and I think the author must have been inspired by it while writing If I Stay. Even if she has lost her entire immediate family, she is able to see all the others whose lives she has touched and who would be devastated by the loss of her, too. A family can be about more than just blood. And that helps her arrive at her decision.
Here are the reasons I did not give this book five stars. Yes, I loved Mia's family, but they were just too perfect. And her boyfriend, Adam, was too perfect. I think it's currently called the "Mitt Romney effect." If you look too perfect and act too perfect, people won't
relate to you and they won't believe in you. When I thought that Mia was going to make her decision to go to college based on her high school boyfriend, I was ready to hop up on my soap box. Teenage girls often romanticize relationships. They believe that this relationship "will last forever." And I know plenty of real-life cases where the girl decides not to go to college or where to go to college based on what her boyfriend does. You know what I'm going to say--how often does that relationship work out? I know it's not impossible but it's improbable. As I said before, at that age there's so much life still to live and if you base all your decisions on what your boyfriend is doing, exactly whose life are you living? So I was relieved when it was clear that Mia would go to Juilliard if she was accepted. Now you don't have to listen to my tirade if it had gone the other way! I also thought the author tried too hard to make her parents and Adam cool and hip. I know she was trying to emphasize the difference between classical Mia and her punk-rocker parents and boyfriend but it came out too forced. Nonetheless, those issues did not stop me from loving this book. I immediately got on-line and ordered the sequel, Where She Went, from the library. Damn this book, even the title brings tears to my eyes!