Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Good grief.

So, I admit that things like seeing the crew from San Francisco getting eliminated on America's Best Dance Crew have made me cry. Once, a Campbell's soup commercial. It's true. So maybe it's fair to say it doesn't take much to make me cry. I'm a sucker. But, at the very least, I like to think I can tell when I've been sucker punched. And there are some things that earn the tears.
I recently read the new YA novel,
If I Stay, by Gayle Foreman, and cried and cried and cried and cried and then cried some more until my face hurt. It's about a girl named Mia who begins an out of body experience after she suffers a horrific car accident with her family. Her parents are dead on the scene, and her believably adorable younger brother is whisked away. The novel moves back in forth between the times before the accident, and after. What I found really compelling was the handling of the out of body conceit. Mia's body is comatose in the present action of the novel, and her spirit, her consciousness (or however you want to describe it) bears witness to visitations from her extended family, friends, and boyfriend.
When I was told what the conceit was, I had my reservations; it sounded a little Lovely Bonesish to me, and I seem to be the only person in the world who did not like that novel. But Foreman handles it elegantly, believably and most of all evocatively. The family and friends that create Mia's emotional landscape are empathetically and realistically portrayed. And while they are incredibly specific (a dad who used to love punk and now loves bow ties, for example) they also feel authentically universal in the love that binds them to one another. So while Mia struggles to decide between life with the crippling pain of losing her family and something that may be much easier, the reader is invited to look for moments of love in their own life.
And so even though the novel centers around the absolute worst-case scenario of family loss, it is ultimately a celebration the things that make life worth living. And so I cried and I cried and I cried and then I cried some more while I thinking about it later.

No comments:

Post a Comment