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I first heard about Gayle Forman’s YA novel If I Stay last week when someone linked to a list of books about to be turned into movies and TV shows. A teenaged girl’s family is in a car wreck and she, stuck in a plane between living and dying, must choose what she wants to do – live in a world filled with a painful recovery and no family? Or let go and move on to whatever happens next…even if that means no dreamy rock star boyfriend, not finding out if she made it into Julliard, and further devastating what remains of her family. Either choice will be painful. Either will involve a leap of faith. So what does she do?

I thought it was an interesting premise. No, not exactly original, but there’s so much room for grace and powerful writing about love, forgiveness, redemption, and the meaning of family. And I’ll admit it: I figured that if it was going to be turned into a movie, there must be something catchy about it.

Yeah, not so much. I mean, I did breeze through it in a single day – but that had more to do with the giant-type and lack of depth as it did with the catchiness of it all. I wish there had been a bit more poking and prodding. There were a bunch of good surface-y scenes, but mostly the novel felt rushed, as if Forman was checking off boxes to get to the big reveal. Perhaps I can best summarize what I mean by the book blurb I didn’t see until I got home with it – in order words, when it was too late. It was something to the effect that fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight would appreciate the story. No, not so much because of paranormal romance or sparkley boyfriends, but because it’s a story you could knock back without having to think too much about. There were some glimmers of interesting character development, but they were more like a run around the block instead of investing in a marathon. I guess I wanted more zig and zag to the story – give me progress, set backs, more character development. There was something there, something that could have been tended to and coaxed into life if the author wanted to pour more time and effort, more of herself into it. Instead she produced the YA literary equivalent of a Teen Disney made-for-TV story.

Not worth the $10 for the paperback, or more than an eyeroll over the time spent reading the book. 2 of 5 stars.

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