This month, the Reading Rewind feature is If I Stay by Gayle Forman, which is actually the book that sparked the Reading Rewind idea. I first read and reviewed If I Stay back in June 2012; you can read my original review at my GoodReads account. It took me only a day to finish the book the second time around. It's short, yes, but it's also so compelling that you can't tear your eyes away from the story. I knew what was going to happen, and yet, it felt like I was reading it with fresh eyes.
Before I start waxing poetic about my feelings, let's move on to the Reading Rewind questions, which are at the heart of the feature:
1. When did you originally read the book and what did you rate it?
I read If I Stay in the middle of June 2012, at which point, I immediately bought and read the follow-up, Where She Went. I just had to know what happened to Mia and Adam. My original rating was 5 stars. You can find my original (inadequate) review on my GoodReads account.
2. Why did you love it?
Like Twilight, the first feature book of Reading Rewind, I read If I Stay right before another turning stage of my life, and it was a book I desparately needed to remind me of the power of deep, true, lasting love -- and not just the romantic type of love. The relationships that exists between Mia and her family, between Mia and her best friend, Kim, and between Mia and Adam each had something to teach me about love; what it means to feel safe and secure with the ones around you.
If I Stay was one of the first books that touched my heart and left me feeling tender, raw and sad, yet hopeful and somehow wistful. Gayle has a way of writing characters that strike you with their realness, and leave you wishing you could pop in and visit them at their homes. As Mia remembered her first concert performance, when her parents tried to comfort her with humor, I laughed outloud. When Mia lost her family, I felt the loss, too. When Adam made his plea to Mia to live, to stay, I felt a lump in my throat as tears pricked behind my eyes. When Kim reminded her that she is not alone, that she still has a family, I cried.
It's something special when you can connect so completely and wholly with a book, and more importantly, with its characters. This is a unique quality of all the books Gayle has written, and why I will always read anything and everything she publishes.
3. After the re-read, did your rating/feelings about it change? Why or why not?
I am so happy that Stacee and I agreed to re-read If I Stay. It's just as beautiful and heart-breaking the second time around, as it was the first. While our feelings about a certain book may change over time, I loved If I Stay even more with this re-reading. With certain life experiences over the years, I've seen that when it seems as if everything has been taken away from you and you don't know how to go on as you did before, it is possible for life to be beautiful and meaningful again, and perhaps even more so because of your losses and trials. It's all about your attitude and perspective -- and allowing time for your heart and mind to heal.
If you haven't read If I Stay or the follow-up, Where She Went, I can't recommend it enough. If you have read either or both books, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
In January 2013, I was honored to meet Gayle Forman, at her book signing for Just One Day. Needless to say, I was such a fangirl that I wasn't able to adequately express how much I loved If I Stay -- maybe next time :-)