If I Stay by Gayle Forman is one of those books that it's hard to decide to pick up.... and even harder to put down.
The basic premise of the book is kind of hard to stomach. Seventeen-year-old Mia and her family are in a terrible car crash. They die, and she lives--but barely. She's in a coma, but somehow her spirit is separated from her body. She cannot feel her own physical pain, but she is able to travel around the hospital in ethereal form and see what her family and friends are experiencing as they wait for her to wake up. As she watches her loved ones, she relives some of her memories with them--the rocky start of her friendship with Kim, her first date with Adam, the birth of her brother Teddy. And she comes to realize that she has a decision to make--whether to stay, or whether to go.
While the storyline sounds depressing, and I will admit that I shed quite a few tears while reading it, Gayle Forman's writing is so beautiful that the entire book becomes something lovely. Mia is an accomplished cellist, and the reader can practically hear the strains of her music on every page. As we travel deeper into Mia's story, we realize that the question she struggles to answer--to stay or to go--was one that she was asking herself even before the accident. Should she go to Julliard and pursue her music? Or should she stay at home and in her relationship with Adam? My heart just ached for Mia throughout this book, not just for the loss of her family, but because of all the decisions that she faced.
Even though the story was sad from beginning to end, it was also utterly beautiful. This was the first book I had read by Gayle Forman, and I am now anxious to read more. Every word seems to be placed just right, and the overall effect is so musical, so lovely and haunting that it stayed with me long after the story was done.