Compare This! Before I Fall vs. If I Stay

Hey everyone!  Get your tissues ready because I like to call this one the Battle of the Tearjerkers.  Besides, everyone needs a good cry once in a while and these are awesome to have in your arsenal.

This week is also YA Week on Goodreads, so I wanted to pay tribute to two of the most moving books I could think of.  (Not to mention movies…y’all, If I Stay is my go-to bawl movie.  And it has awesome music.)

ANYWAY. let’s grab that box of tissues and sink into these choices-can-change-your-life reads!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

vs. 

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Before I Fall

Synopsis: For popular senior Samantha “Sam” Kingston, “Cupid Day” on February 12th at school is supposed to be amazing.  It’s a day for roses and love and after-school parties and the privileges of being at the top of the social ladder.  And it’s a great day…until she dies in an accident that night.  But then Sam wakes up the next morning.  Sam is reliving her last day over and over again.  Soon, Sam realizes that by making little changes, she has more power over her life than she ever thought she did.

 Pros:

  • This hits you right in the feels.  I related to Sam very quickly (not because I was like her in school, but just because her situation was so real).
  • Character development.  I mean, if you have a character reliving the same day over and over, it’s very easy to see how they change because literally every different decision shows those changes.  And I’m a total sucker to character development.
  • The themes are really universal.  It’s about being a good person, about deciding what you want to do with the time you have on Earth, about determining who matters most to you.  And much like character development, I’m a sucker to good themes.  It’s part of being an English teacher.  We eat themes for breakfast.
  • I really liked that it’s a story of redemption, of opening your eyes and seeing more of the world around you.  Sam tends to be focused on herself (like most people, let alone teenagers), and seeing her realize what was happening in the lives of others was satisfying.

Cons:

  • Sam and her friends can be incredibly annoying, just because of who they are.  They’re the popular kids in school, the ones who make snide comments about those beneath them, the ones who bully.  And it can be really hard to read that, especially if you experienced things like that in school.  (I did not, but they annoyed the crap out of me.)
  • Let’s not lie.  Replaying the same day over and over can get repetitive, even with the small changes Sam makes.  I mean, it’s basically Groundhog Day.
  • There are A LOT of serious issues covered in this book.  At times, it could be overwhelming, depending on the reader.  (Death, suicide, sex, loss, bullying, etc.)

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If I Stay

Synopsis: Mia has been facing a lot of tough choices this year.  Should she pursue her love–her passion–for music, even if it means moving across the country away from her family and her boyfriend?  Can she handle being away from them, and possibly losing her boyfriend?  Then one February morning, everything changes in an instant.  Now there’s only one choice Mia has to make.  Should she stay?

Pros:

  • Mia’s story is raw.  It’s emotional.  It’s all too easy to put yourself in her shoes, trying to make the same decision she is trying to make.  Legitimately, have some tissues ready.  You’re gonna need them.
  • I quite liked the way the story was told, in a nonlinear timeline.  Things jump around.  As Mia starts thinking about something, we flash back in time to see what moment she’s thinking about.  It’s done really well, so it’s not distracting.  It’s more like the way our brains work.
  • I adore the characters, from Adam (Mia’s boyfriend) to her parents, her brother, and her grandparents.  (I especially love the grandfather.)  It’s really amazing to see how they all played such a large role in Mia’s life.
  • This book is highly quotable.  I have made many many notes of quotes from this book that I just adore.

Cons:

  • Occasionally the suspense can be a bit overbearing, to the point where you’re yelling at the pages and demanding that the action pick up and tell you what happens next.  Sometimes, you’re left with questions for a long time before you get answers.
  • There’s always something about books about music that just can’t quite grasp the power music has.  This certainly tries–and does much better than some.  You understand Mia’s passion for music, how it makes you feel.  But if you’re unfamiliar with the cello or classical music, I don’t feel like you’re truly experiencing Mia’s world.  A book just can’t quite do that.  (However, the movie does it well!)
  • The realness of this story can be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared for it.  We’re talking a nasty book hangover, questioning your life choices, etc.  This book can be brutal on the feels.

 

My Winner: If I Stay

Why?  I honestly didn’t realize this until I was doing this post, but I read If I Stay first, and I think because that made the initial impact on me, it’s sticking higher in my thoughts.  Also, as someone who thought one day she’d grow up and be a singer (ooooh noooo), I understand what music means to Mia.  I understand her better than I do Sam.  And Mia’s cast of characters is far more supportive than Sam’s, making this book hit the feels that much harder.

And I know I shouldn’t factor this into my decision, but I can’t fully exclude it either.  The movie for If I Stay is amazing.  It’s not 100% faithful to the book (what is?), but it is faithful in its intent.  It stays true to the characters and the plot and the themes.  I have mad respect for the movie.  (Not that Before I Fall‘s movie is bad.  I love Zoey Deutch as much as I do Chloe Grace Moretz, but I just love this movie more.)

Anyway, do you agree with my pick?  What are some other tear-jerkers I need to be looking into?

If I Stay (The Movie)

Hi, lovelies!  I am SO EXCITED to share with you what I thought of If I Stay!  I went with a couple of my best friends and let’s just say it was something none of us will forget for a while.

(Do I really need to do a blurb for what this is about?  Ok, I’ll make this quick.  Girl & her family are in a car crash, girl needs to decide if she wants to stay or if she wants to move on to the next world with her family.  DONE.)

Right.  So as you may recall, I reread this book a few weeks ago to prep for this.  If you’re looking for a 100% faithful adaptation, this isn’t quite it.  It does stay very faithful to the story, absolutely, but it does take some liberties.  And in a way, I almost think I liked this more than the book.  (*Gasp!*)  Let me explain.

First of all, as if we didn’t already know this, Chloe Grace Moretz is a genius and she plays Mia in a way that is honest and heartfelt.  You know what Mia’s feeling because you can see it on her face.  Her Mia is shy and self-conscious and still free-spirited when she wants to be.  

And Jamie Blackley (Adam)…he was a joy to watch and not just because he’s good looking, though that certainly didn’t hurt anything.  This Adam was full of raw emotions that he usually unleashed through his music, but he was also somewhat aloof.  And he’s such a charmer, almost always saying the perfect thing at the right time.

Right.  So casting was great, not just for these two.  The movie stays true to the book in that it flips between the present and the past.  As my friend put it, “It feels you up with joy [the past] and then it rips your heart out [the present] and then it does it again.”  It’s so true.  Whenever you start feeling emotional, it jumps to something a little happier.  For the first half of the movie, that keeps you away from the tissues.  After that, though…

One thing this movie does is it elaborates on the other perspectives in the story.  We learn more about Mia’s parents.  We learn more about Adam’s history (which may be in Where She Went and I just don’t remember it).  These things are small, but they add so much heart to the story.

I have to say it.  There’s one thing this movie does way better than the book, simply because of its medium: the music.  It’s one thing to read about Adam and Mia playing their respective instruments.  It’s entirely another to be blown away by Mia’s playing or Adam’s vocals.  As someone who has never been musically gifted beyond singing, it’s so cool to see and hear musicians at their best.

A requirement of this movie is that you must have tissues.  It hits everyone in the theatre.  Throughout the movie, there were sniffles coming from all directions.  And it seemed to hit people at different times too.  I know what affected me deeply wasn’t the same as what affected my friends.  For nearly the entire second half of the movie, you will be crying with brief reprieves along the way.  My friends and I left the movie feeling emotionally drained, but in a good way.  It’s a touching movie with so many tender moments that just rip your heart out.

I highly recommend this movie.  Just know that you’re gonna be a hot mess by the time you leave the theatre.

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)

First Lines: Every morning I wake up and I tell myself this: It’s just one day, one twenty-four-hour period to get yourself through.

Man, I’m getting through all my series books today, aren’t I?  Sorry for those of you who haven’t read the first ones.

**WARNING** POTENTIAL SPOILERS

Actually, if you know anything about the first book, the existence of this one is a spoiler in and of itself.

Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay, which is a fantastic book.  They both are.  Each one always bring me to tears.  How can it not?  If I Stay is Mia’s struggle to decide whether to stay in a world sans her family or go on to the afterlife with them.  Talk about a sucker punch.  It really puts life in perspective.

Anyway, this is about Where She Went.  Instead of being told from Mia’s POV again, this is from Adam’s, three years later.  It’s been three years since Mia left him without a word.  And in those three years, during his songwriting, during his launch to stardom, during his relationships, he’s never stopped pining for Mia.  When a chance encounter brings them together in New York, Adam and Mia have to put everything out on the table.  Even their hearts.

I loved seeing everything from Adam’s perspective.  He’s definitely not the same Adam we saw in the hospital, begging Mia to stay.  He’s a much rougher, much darker version of himself.  Plus, it was super cute seeing his flashbacks of their relationship from his side.

There are so many things that Gayle Forman writes about that make you stop and think.  Each book makes you go, “What if…”  There are things I never really think about that she points out and draws attention to that make me reevaluate what I do.  Writing like that doesn’t come around every day.