It seems that young adult literature has reached new peaks of popularity – YA books are being sold to movie studios and adults everywhere are browsing teen reading lists. “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman certainly falls into both of those categories. Adults are (im)patiently waiting for their turn on the hold list for a copy and the movie version starring Chloe Grace Moretz hit theatres this fall. The bulk of YA literature right now seems to include some sort of fantasy element – witchcraft, sorcery, dragons, dystopic teen death brawls, etc. “If I Stay” does manage to include a moderate supernatural element while being predominantly grounded in reality.
Mia, a promising high school cellist, is the eldest child of two-reformed hair band rockers and is contemplating a possible future at Julliard. Her parents, boyfriend, and herself all appreciate and prefer very different musical genres, their love of music period helps bind them together. The perfect group is torn apart in a very abrupt car crash at the beginning of the book that forces Mia into a comatose state. This is where the supernatural comes in; not only has it torn her life apart, it has somehow torn her apart. In an extended out-of-body experience, Mia narrates the story as she watches her body being cared for at the hospital, as she watches her loved ones interact and mourn and hope, and she includes flashbacks to how all of these relationships first began. It is an interesting way to tell a story – through a first person narrative where the first person has the ability to transcend her own consciousness. It is also quite interesting that Forman decided to include the ongoing discussion of life and death in this work by having Mia in a struggle to decide which will be her next step. The discussion is of course a sensitive one and perhaps “If I Stay” is a representation of that gray area between the two.