“If I Stay” took my heart and metaphorically ripped it from my chest, then proceeded to stomp on it for the duration of the book. I know that sounds awful but this book did so many things to my feels that despite ugly crying the whole way through, I absolutely loved it.
There were so many elements to this story that made it enjoyable for me. Not the least of which was it’s realism. Yes, I get it, it’s a contemporary, it’s supposed to be real. But for a girl who happily sits in a cloud of fire breathing dragons, arrow shooting mockingjays, dystopian overlords and swoony Grisha-hunters (if you don’t get the reference then that means you haven’t read Six of Crows, which you must do immediately!
After reading this post of course) I am used to a bit more flair to my story.
So a story sans magic, brutal violence and commentary on the wrongness of our own society, I wasn’t sure what I’d be getting into.
But boy, was I happy to wet my feet in this contemporary.
And my pillow in walloping tears of heartbroken sadness.
I really enjoyed the realistic viewpoint on love this book portrayed. I also thought it was great how it’s OK to be in love. Growing up, I sort of got the sense that being in love meant you were weak and wouldn’t amount to anything. (I’m not sure if this is something I learned from my family, or the culture my parents were raised in, or just the general sense of dread that because I am a girl, I wouldn’t be taken seriously by the world if I were in love.) Which is just ridiculous, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Back to love. Mia’s is in love. And the portrayal of her relationship is realistic because we don’t get inundated with how amazing or perfect this relationship is. Rather, we are brought along a series of tough times in the relationship, highlighting the fact that being in love with another person is hard and maintaining a relationship takes work. We see the ups and downs. It’s not all cloud nine here. And I really enjoyed that. I still got all swoony for the characters, loved them to pieces, and I appreciated Mia’s candor about when she was being “one of those girls”. You know “one of those girls” who gets jealous, or freaks out about the small things a guy does or doesn’t do. Being “one of those girls” is real, it happens and it’s nothing to be ashamed of because it can be overcome. Mia acknowledges her insecurities and works to deal with them. I admire her so much for that. Jeez, if only I could have been so mature as a high schooler.
I also deeply appreciated the depiction of Mia’s parents. As Mia put it, they were self proclaimed parents who “weren’t ready to be parents” when the time came. Mia wasn’t an “accident” per se, but she wasn’t planned. I could sympathize with Mia’s parents. Which was an odd feeling for me reading a book. I never get to do this. But, being a young parent, it was refreshing. My soul needed this. I needed to see parents, even fictional ones, who weren’t ready to have kids but did and who didn’t totally screw up their children in the process. If anything, they were the best parents I’ve ever seen portrayed, of course my perspective is limited but I feel like parents are rarely ever pulled into stories anymore. I’m sure that as I read more contemporaries though I’ll be happy to amend that statement. It was a relief to see parents who could be themselves, not some cookie cutter depiction of what parents are supposed to look like, and still slip into the role that parenthood demanded of them. And they did it with style too. I liked that. I look up to that.
The beauty of this book, aside from the transparent narration provided by Mia’s first person perspective, is the overarching theme of family and togetherness. Sometimes we don’t realize a moment is pivotal in our lives (some of us do and I envy you that). But I’d argue that most of us, regardless of how exuberantly we live our lives, are rarely present enough in our own lives to get a sense that what we’re about to embark on is a “this is something” moment. The book highlights the everyday moments that shaped Mia, the moments that will forever be carved in her heart because of the people who molded her into who she is. It’s in these moments that we see everything she has to live for and everything that she has lost. Sadly, because we never know when we’ll be called from this earth, we take these moments, these tiny snippets of time that seem meaningless but will forever be ingrained in our souls, for granted. I think “If I Stay” is more than a book about the will to live or having something to live for. I think it’s also a book about actually living; it’s about appreciating the life we’ve been given, and savoring those little moments when you hold your loved one’s hand or kiss a tiny forehead goodnight. It’s about love, the power of friendship, and most of all the hopefulness for a future.
Have you read “If I Stay”? I’m a chronic weeper so I don’t expect you to have cried the whole way through like me, but wasn’t it a tear jerker?