Book and film review | If I Stay

*Obviously, massive spoilers below! Beware! 

I have been willing to do pretty much anything to get my hands on this book the moment I saw the trailer for the film. I am one of those crazy people who will kill themselves if they don't read the book before seeing the film (for some inexplicable reason I'm very strict about that) and I delayed watching the film for a loooooooooooong while just so I can read the book. Seeing the massive stock of If I Stay and Where She Went in my local bookstore made me squeal a little. Anyway... here's the review for the film and the book.

The story follows the young Mia, who is a cellist and determined to get into Juilliard (if you're not a musician, this is the best musical academy on the planet and if you by chance are lucky enough to get in, then it's the confirmation that you're really, really, really, good). One snowy day in Oregon, and school is cancelled. Her parents and brother decide to go on a little trip to their grandparents and they drive and drive... and have an accident. Mia wakes up a few minutes later, feeling completely fine. She sees the chaos of ambulances and corpses around her, but nobody can see her. She is on the brink of death and it's up to her to decide whether to let it go or to stay.

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While reading this book, I didn't fully understand the critical hype around this book; so many critics went mad over it and whereas I could understand some aspects of their craze, I wasn't so emotionally invested into the characters as one might expect. But, at the very end, Gayle Forman got me. The finishing scene where she forces herself to wake up, where she compares the cons and pros of staying and going, that moment inside of her head made me weep. It felt like one of the most beautiful descriptions I've ever read; you could literary feel the heartbreak inside, her tears streaming down her cheeks, the passion, the burning desire to stay and to live on... that was freaking... fantastic.

In the book, I love how accurately the relationship between Mia and her boyfriend are portrayed; the first few months is basically the awkward phase when everyone is just so nice to each other and way too damn polite and how their worlds of rock and classical music collided and then, it's presented as to how they dealt with it. So many YA books make relationships seem very easy; they make it seem like "oh yes, we've got together, we made out, now we're together, that's no big deal, our lives will continue being normal", when in reality, it's not like that. It's so awkward in the first few weeks and I love how Forman chose this way to portray her first relationship. It was so cringy and you really felt Mia's pain, but thoroughly enjoyable.

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The idea that I love above all else in this book was her love for music; not so many people will relate to this one, but as I am a musician, I can really feel why Mia and Adam are so passionate about music, why they're saying that it saved their lives, why it's so important to them. I think that there was a sentence in the book where Mia said that during the time she played the cello, she felt like her heart was going to jump out of her and that's exactly how I feel about music. Forman presented this idea so amazingly, not in that cliché way, but in a realistic one. It was relatable and I think that she explained amazingly well as to why we feel so strongly about music. Props on that!

Away from the music and more onto the deep and philosophical part of the book; the idea that your life can change for the better or for worse in one day. I adored this notion, because it's just so ridiculously true. Even though the way portrayed in the book may be a tiny bit pretentious and kind of cliché, it is a good idea. It could have been carried out a bit better, but it's still a good idea that we need to talk about more. I think that Mia deals with her faith a lot better in the film than in the book, but that might just be me.

The characters were so brilliantly written out in the book; her mum and dad seem like the sassiest beings on the planet (seriously, I want them as my own), Teddy is perhaps the most lovable character in the whole book with his childish obsessions with rock and just all around adorable personality, Adam is the one every girl will want to find in her life, Kim is the best friend that we all wished we had (even when they don't agree with your choice of boyfriend) and basically... you fall in love with them.

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Both the book and the film, in my modest opinion, have their downsides and upsides (as does every book and film), but this film kind of messed around with my biggest pet peeve on the planet and that is the way of filming. At some points (actually, quite a few points), the film is sooooo beautifully shot; the sex scene, Mia's audition, the way her quick, flashback memories are edited, all of those things made me want to weep, because they were utter perfection, but... what the fuck were they thinking when they shot Mia's almost-departure? She opened the doors of the hospital and the lighting was so artificial and any idiot could tell that it was edited in afterwards. It was very bipolar, considering the manner of shooting and I hate it. Either shoot it really good during all of the scenes or just don't shoot it at all.

However, I believe that a lot of the characters were brilliantly portrayed; the way I imagined Mia's parents, her grandparents, Willow and Henry, Adam, all of those people was spot on. I liked Chloe's interpretation of Mia; she was a determined, adoring, caring, headstrong and all around loveable person from the start, but I believe that she could have lost it a bit more when she found out that her parents and brother died. That bit of her interpretation felt a bit held back and I would have personally preferred her to just lose it, but that's just my opinion.

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The soundtrack was a perfect mixture of classical music and pop/rock music. The thing I loved about their choice of classical music was that they chose very attractive songs, making the wider public more interested into classical music. I'm a musician, so I'm allowed to say that sometimes, some classical music can be a bit annoying and a bit dull, but they choose the most amazing songs that they could and I'm so happy about it.
I also have to give credit to all the actors that actually played the instruments; I heard that the director was incredibly strict about it and to learn such hard songs in a very limited course of time is a massive thing to do and I offer them my sincerest congratulations.

Anyway, I believe that both the book and the film are worth your time, but as with every work of art, there are ups and downs and I think that both the film and the book deserve a 4/5. I hope you've enjoyed this little review (I haven't done one of these in a long time and I want to do more, so if you have any suggestions, leave them down below and I shall do my best to fulfil them!) and I shall see you soon!
xxx Katherine

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