If I Stay

If I Stay

by Gayle Forman

Within a day of last week's announcement of an agreement between Penguin and the Robert McCloskey estate copies of Blueberries For Sal were released from, well, book prison I suppose. These beloved and now liberated copies have already arrived at DDG and are back where they belong, on bookstore shelves. Another book we were happy to see arrive this week was If I Stay, a terrific new young adult novel with strong appeal for adult readers. Here's the advance review of it I did for Publisher's Weekly.

If Aristotle had reviewed Gayle Forman’s If I Stay in his Poetics as an exemplar of Young Adult tragic fiction, he would almost certainly have expressed great displeasure. After all, he considered the proper engine for pathos to be the fall of an otherwise virtuous person based upon a single tragic flaw, whereas If I Stay works strongly to evoke pathos from arbitrary tragic circumstances befalling its teenage heroine, Mia. Forman begins her novel by deftly drawing Mia’s sympathetic family and then sending them off to a car accident on a snowy road, in which her parents die straightway and her seven-year-old brother lingers in the hospital. Mia, a gifted musician, is herself badly injured. Prior to the accident she had stressed out over the prospect of leaving behind her wonderful boyfriend, rock star musician Adam, for a prestigious music academy. In the wake of her tragedy, the term “if I stay” takes on fresh meaning.

If If I Stay were a 10-meter platform dive, it would start out with a low degree of difficulty, given the benefit of all that tragic material, but Forman pulls it off amazingly well. The characters are clearly drawn and our sympathies are engaged on many levels. Mia narrates the book from a state of heightened awareness as she lies in a hospital bed, seemingly unconscious. This unusual narrative device conveys a vital immediacy much like that found in Terry Trueman’s Stuck in Neutral. In the end, as we listen through Mia’s ears to Adam’s wrenching plea that she stay, one part of our mind is registering that Adam is an impossibly good guy, but somehow it doesn’t matter.

If I Stay is a tearjerker that works because it is both heartfelt and tightly constructed. Teen readers should be more than ready to incur Aristotle’s wrath and join booksellers in embracing this fantastic new book.

Here they are! Our weekly picks for the two best: two hardcover, two paperback, and two children's books. The very best new arrivals to leap out of the box and onto our shelves this week. Call or email us if you want more information on any of these titles, or to have us hold you a copy. Or stop in and check them out in person. We'd love to see you. Thanks as always for sharing your reading with us!