If I Stay teaches patience to its readers. Knowing the pivotal plot point before even opening the book then spending the next two hundred pages waiting for the resolution would be enough to try a saint’s patience if it were not for Gayle Forman’s writing. The frequent use of flashbacks takes readers from the anxiety of wondering what will happen to complete immersion of a simpler time. Of Labor Day cookouts, Julliard auditions, and deciding who to be for Halloween.
Of heart to heart talks with Mom (who is gone). Singing with Dad (who is gone). Playing with Teddy (who might be gone).
And once again you’re jolted back to present reality, where Mia must decide to go or fight to stay.
Forman’s characters are so real; in fact, they’re people I’ve known, in a small way. I have family with Adam’s need to occasionally make a Big Production. A parent who I can tell nearly anything. Friends who I could call on night or day if I need help. I’ve received kindness at the hands of strangers that I’ll never forget, just like Mia.
The familiarity of the people in the novel is the only thing I could relate to, while Mia decides. It anchors the novel, while the grandness of Mia’s situation spirals out of control.
If I Stay takes place in less than a few days’ time, but in its span, I learned who Mia was, the wonderful and challenging life she had Before, and the grief that would overtake her like nothing else… if she stayed.
If these characters were toddlers and I was an old lady, I would pinch their cheeks. They’re that adorable.
Lola especially. The MC’s got style and knows how to rock it. It was marvelous to have a female who has a substantial amount of self confidence, most of the time.
The focus of the novel is on her point of major vulnerability. A boy named Cricket.
You guys, these two could have had the perfect story. They grew up as next door neighbors in a picturesque section of San Fransisco. They could have had an idealistic high school sweetheart romance!
But shit happened.
Cricket and his family end up moving away after the event-that-is-not-to-be-thought-of. Suffice to say, Lola was majorly hurt.
Life went on, and Cricket was pretty much going to be that boy in Lola’s past. But then the Bells came back to town.
Oh, the irony.
If Lola walked into a room, I’m pretty sure I’d be impressed by her. And Cricket? Well, I’d never be able to look him in the eye, but I’d definitely be sporting a crush.
Once again, Perkin’s world is incredibly fleshed out. The setting and the characters, they all have quirks that make them unique. Lola’s an aspiring fashion designer and Cricket Bell (Bell, as in Alexander Graham) has rather impressive inventing skills. Even the minor characters are not to be outdone. Cricket’s sister is aiming to be an Olympic ice skater and one of Lola’s dads runs his own catering business.
Like its predecessor, Lola and the Boy Next Door has a character that’s already in a relationship when the romantic interest appears. It’s a little awkward to read, which I guess is the point. Life’s messy and all that. I do wonder if Isla and the Happily Ever After (2014) will have that in the plot line. Personally, I hope not.
The story of Lola and Cricket is a complex one and it takes quite awhile to get it all out in the open. It was deliciously frustrating knowing that these two had a story but not getting specifics. It’s like having a friend who has a major secret but won’t give, leaving me to jump around and squeal, “Tell me. Tell me!”
Trust me, me squealing isn’t pretty.
In the end, though, everything’s fleshed out in a way that leaves this reader very, very satisfied. Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door is a definite win.
Interested in more? Read my review of Anna and the French Kiss.
When I read books like Fire, I wonder why I don’t read more fantasy. As it is, Graceling and Bitterblue have leapt onto my wishlist.
Yup, that’s right. I read Fire before Graceling. A long time ago, Yan from Books by Their Cover told me it would be okay. I don’t think it harmed me in any way, other than making the chapters about the graceling seem a bit curious; needless to say, I’m eager to find out more about the lore surrounding them.
From Kristin Cashore’s website: Beautiful creatures called monsters live in the Dells. Monsters have the shape of normal animals: mountain lions, dragonflies, horses, fish. But the hair or scales or feathers of monsters are gorgeously colored– fuchsia, turquoise, sparkly bronze, iridescent green– and their minds have the power to control the minds of humans.
Seventeen-year-old Fire is the last remaining human-shaped monster in the Dells. Gorgeously monstrous in body and mind but with a human appreciation of right and wrong, she is hated and mistrusted by just about everyone, and this book is her story.
I have to admit, I get tired of novels where the main character is beautiful. Or worse yet, she’s beautiful but she just doesn’t know it. The cliche gets to me. Thankfully, Fire’s physical attraction didn’t irk me. While she is stunning, it causes her more problems than gives her benefits and her ability to control minds is far more fascinating.
As we’ve all heard, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Fire is aware of that much more so than her deceased monster father. She’s sensitive, almost shy at times. A lifetime of people wanting her for all the wrong reasons has made her wary.
To add to her appeal (for me, anyway), she has a horse. His name is Small, and I want him. He reminds me more of a dog than any horse I’ve ever met. He’s adorable. I’m always fascinated with the bond between humans and animals, or monster and animal, in this case.
What I love most about Fire is its pacing. There is no instant gratification. From its romance to the the fate of the land, Fire takes its sweet time in bringing the climactic resolutions about. When they do finally come, they blow you away.