Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Matter of Fate: If I Stay by Gayle Foreman & Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

At first these two books seem worlds away, one a much praised modern literary classic the other a backlist YA contemporary climbing its way up the NYT bestsellers list with a film release weeks away.  

I found myself reading both books at around the same time and the more I thought about writing the individual reviews, the more I realized these books have a lot in common. Both  main characters, Kathy  H. in Never Let Me Go and Mia in If I Stay are young women trying to figure out their future. While Kathy's path has been laid out  since  birth Mia gets the opportunity to decide hers.

If I Stay by Gayle Foreman

The concept of this novel is simple, after a horrific car accident with her family 16-year-old Mia comes out of her body. Taking form as an  apparition, she observes the fate of the rest of her family and must decide if she will stay with her body or if she will go. The retrospective storytelling explores Mia's past relationships to her family and friends. We get complex and whole images of her  punk rocker turned middle school teacher dad,  her "tough as nails, tender-as-kittens, feminist bitch" mother, her musician boyfriend and a host of other friends The story is not at all plot driven, but it works so wonderfully because looming in the background is the question of if Mia will choose to stay or go.

I listened to this on audio and the narrator, Kirsten Potter, does a good job with all her voices and keeping the narration interesting. The production is a little weird because sometimes cello music will start randomly playing and it comes of as kind of corny.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I'm  mad it took me so long to finally get to ! This little novel completely develops every character in a concise and compelling story. I thought this novel was amazing and I can't wait to see the movie coming out in August ! 

Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro

I've been trying to read more literary fiction lately and this book is one I always had in the back of my head. Nearly a decade after its release, this book seems to be always making its round including the Time's 100 Best English Novels. 

Like If I Stay,  Never Let Me Go is a retrospective story, only this time it's 30-year-old Kathy H looking back on her childhood at the Hailsham School, where it slowly becomes clear the children and the school are more than they appear. Once their fate is revealed, Kathy struggles with if she wants to avoid it and how.  

Never Let Me Go had its screen debut in 2010
Never Let Me Go is often classified as horror or dystopic, but it never really feels that way as you are reading it. When the revelations come they are simply there and not as big twists. It wasn't until well after I finished this novel did I realize how disturbing what was going on in the background really was. Ishiguro's writing is fantastic, I like the way he has Kathy sort of tell stories out of order or how she will have to back up to make a story make sense. It made the narration feel authentic. 

I wouldn't necessarily classify this as a YA crossover, it has a very different tone than most YA dystopians. However I think with its length and mysterious plot it's a great toe dip into literary fiction.

Check out the trailer for If I Stay 


  1. Interesting pairing of books! I've read both and really enjoyed both. Have you seen the movie version of "Never Let Me Go"?

  2. I haven't, but I just watched the trailer and it looks really good. I think the movie will fill in some of the blanks from the book.

  3. I recently listened to If I Stay and Where She Went. Such emotional reads/listens. Nice review pairing- I should check out Never Let Me Go sometime.

  4. I've only read the first book and I really loved it. The follow up book is just as good too. Glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Funny story--I accidentally listened to the sample of the companion thinking it was a standalone, so it was kind of ruined from me. However, that audiobook is narrated by one of my favorite narrators so I'll have to get to it.

  6. Never Let Me Go is a very different book, but I would totally suggest it. I need to get to Where She Went !

  7. i have not read never let me go but like you i LOVED if i stay. i also agree that kirsten potter is an awesome narrator--i haven't listened to any of the YA she narrated but i've listened to the romance novels she did and she's fantastic! they were set in scotland and she did the scottish accents in different character voices and everything. i think narrators really, really make a difference. it can be the best written novel but if the narrator sucks, i can't enjoy the story.


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