It’s a typical young adult novel: 17-year-old Mia Hall is pretty (but doesn’t know it), smart (but doesn’t believe it) and a talented cellist (arguable, in her opinion) on her way to Juilliard — still, despite all of these gifts, she feels like she doesn’t belong. Living with two rock-and-roll-turned-wholesome-and-refined parents and a rambunctious 8-year-old brother, Teddy, Mia’s classical tastes make her the butt of jokes at the dinner table.
As she struggles with feeling like an outsider at home, Mia questions her decision to attend Juilliard, wondering if she should instead stay home to support her successful rock band boyfriend, Adam, as his band becomes increasingly popular.
The title “If I Stay” takes on a whole new meaning as the Halls are a victim of a car crash, killing three of them and leaving Mia trapped in a purgatory of choice. The book revolves around Mia watching her friends and family react to her possible death and flashbacks of Mia’s experiences growing up: from seeing her little brother, to her first fight with her best friend, Kim, to meeting Adam and auditioning for Juilliard. Trapped and confused, Mia wants to be with her parents, but also wants to fight and continue living.
It was about time “If I Stay” caught the attention of Hollywood. The characters become likable quickly and their back and forth banter shows the lighthearted and loving relationships between them; I’d be willing to bet Gayle Forman, the author, had as much fun writing the dialogue as I had reading it.
As a protagonist, Mia is sensible, honest and charismatic. The audience gets to experience her as an outsider in juxtaposition with her outgoing family and friends. Forman’s novel, both in writing style and originality, sets it up to be a promising movie.
A common motif in “If I Stay” are the extremely detailed settings. From snowy Oregon to big, echoey theaters, Forman painted an expectation in fans’ heads that are going to be hard to appease in film. However, there’s still a chance the settings will shine as director R. J. Cutler has a prominent background in documentaries. He has proved his talent in cinematography — the trailers will tell you as much.
New faces are abound in “If I Stay”, and I’m optimistic that the film adaptation will preserve Forman’s unique writing style.
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