Earlier this week, I attended an If I Stay screening at at The Silent Movie Theater in West Hollywood. Since Gayle Forman’s book is the first contemporary YA novel I loved since I rediscovered young adult literature, it was a pretty big deal to me that the film adaptation is a good one. And friends, you’re going to love this film. You’re going to love it so much.
I’ve been a fan of director R.J. Cutler’s since his documentary The September Issue so I knew the film would be in good hands, but I was still overcome by how intensely true to the spirit of the book this adaptation was. It captures so many of the things I love about the source material: characters with strong identities, warm relationships with family and friends, emotional depth, complex themes, serious consideration over what you’re supposed to do with your future, and an appreciation for the sheer beauty of everyday life. I’m someone who is usually wincing at scenes where someone is playing onstage and the viewer is supposed to be carried away by it, but in this case, you really are swept away by the energy of Adam’s performances with his band, as well as deeply moved by Mia’s focus on her cello.
Just as in the book, the romance pulls at you–but it’s within the framework of their messy, painful, exquisitely joyous lives. And it’s funny! It’s surprisingly funny, and the set decorations, costumes, music, and cinematography were all thoughtfully considered and perfect. I loved many of the performances as well, and I hope to see Jamie Blackley, Liana Liberato, Mireille Enos, and Joshua Leonard in many more projects in particular. (Obviously Chloe is already everywhere!)
This is a really difficult book to adapt because so much of it is internal dialogue, but the screenwriter Shauna Cross and the director did a fantastic job of making the film dynamic and making you care about Mia’s story. As the film ended, the emotion in the theater was palpable–the man sitting next to me kept saying over and over, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” And as I wiped my tears away, I thought, I know just how you feel.
On a less teary note, the screening was hosted by Refinery 29 and Warner Bros., and these guys know how to throw a party! Aside from a never-ending supply of tasty food and drinks and music, there was also a Twitter-powered If I Stay vending machine (I did not get one of Mia’s cool bracelets, or a hoodie, or a tote, alas) and “live for love” tattoos made especially for the film. (If you buy anything from Tattly in August, by the way, you’ll receive a set of three If I Stay designs!)
Since I used to work in the film industry, I’ve hosted and attended a lot of screenings, but this was by far the most polite, appreciative group of attendees I’d ever seen. (Fun fact: YA fans are way more interested in swag than an open bar.) It was such a fun evening, and I’m really glad to see that the film is being fêted in the style it deserves.
Oh, and for those wondering about my usual non-YA reader test subject: Mr. Darling turned to me afterwards and said, “That was excellent! Definitely my favorite of all the recent YA films we’ve seen.” So this movie is a lovely and moving experience for filmgoers who haven’t read the book and men who aren’t your typical audience for this book, too.
Thanks to our lovely friends at Dutton Juvenile, we have a copy of both the movie tie-in version of If I Stay and a paperback copy of Where She Went to offer to one of our readers. These books are so gorgeous and moving, and represent the best of what realistic YA fiction has to offer–and they even appeal to readers who don’t usually read a lot of contemporary YA, like our own Kim! I am so pleased we’re able to give this set away to someone who hasn’t had a chance to read them yet, or to someone who just needs copies on his or her shelves.
But whether you win or not, I hope you’ll check out these books when you have a chance. They’re beautiful…and they just might make your favorites list. All of the ladies at The Midnight Garden love love love this series.
To win this set, all you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you want to win the books! Open to U.S. residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. See entry form for complete details. Good luck!