Gayle Forman's IF I STAY confronts a question many people would rather avoid. How do you go forward after it seems you've lost everything, when despair and grief mute your world?
I just finished reading this slim YA novel about a budding teenage cellist named Mia. I felt as if it ended abruptly. I would have liked a few more moments of what her decision means, because the questions are well drawn. How much can we suffer? When do we step out of "I" into "us" and what role do family and friends play in our choices? Are we truly alone if our lives and memories are filled with others?
I was intrigued with how the book was structured, because it breaks rules. The first line is an odd sort of all-knowing comment that is followed by first-person present tense. Then the book switches between present and past tense. As writers, we're told to avoid backstory, and, yet, in this story it's integral.
Warning: spoilers ahead in this paragraph. Since Mia is in a coma but is lucid, she weaves past events into the present, trying to make sense of what has happened to her life. I was aware that I was reading backstory, but it felt like a natural process of sorting out her life, appreciating people and experiences while she puts that into context with her current condition. And the story got richer with those layers. The reader is on a journey of discovery with her. But we are oddly detached, as though Mia is looking through a lens from a distance and feeling little emotion. I was okay with that since she is in this altered mental state, but the ending would have more impact if Mia switched from telling us to showing us her loss and pain. This was the moment when the floodgates could be opened and the life raft of love and hope was within reach.
Still, I recommend this book for raising important questions and for taking risks by being told from the viewpoint of a girl in a coma. Writing and life are about risks--if you never take any, nothing happens. You may as well be comatose.
I'm going to segue to Abby Sunderland for a moment. I was so worried for the 16-year-old sailor the night it was announced that her emergency signals had been activated. I pictured her alone in her crippled sailboat in 30-foot waves. Obviously, my panic did her no good, but her experience as a sailor and her state-of-the-art equipment did. And then there was her family and the volunteers who set to work to get her rescued. I don't wish to discuss whether she should have been out there or who pays for rescues or any of that. Instead, I'm interested in her battle to survive and the support of her family, friends, volunteers and the many people who filled her blog comments with prayers and well wishes.
Her story is far different than IF I STAY but also alike in how we're all faced with decisions and risks and must reach inside ourselves for the will to survive and how that inner strength is bolstered by the support of others.
So, it seems appropriate as I muse on what helps us make it through the trials and traumas of life that Liza Carens Salerno gave me this Journey Support Award. Thank you, Liza for being one of the people I've met online who make the writing and blogging adventure such a joy.
In fact, I pass this award on to all the bloggers who follow my musings here and/or have left me wonderful comments. I love having you with me on this journey!