Alright I have to admit that I went into this book with an assumption, and was completely off the mark. We saw a clip from the movie adaptation at LeakyCon, and somehow I grabbed the idea that the story was going to revolve around a purgatory-esque place, and have a romance within it. Basically I was expecting a book about afterlife or inbetweenlife but that's not what this book was about. It's about life.
If I Stay is told in alternating sections of present and past events. The two complement each other and build tension, and maybe it's because I had just finished More Than This by Patrick Ness, but I kept expecting another person to show up in the 'present' story. It just seemed so lonely. However, I did enjoy the characters. There was a punk crowd (with briefly mentioned lesbians in a pink car!) that encouraged many cool references to rockers. The Kathleen Hanna ref made my day.
Family life was brilliantly depicted, especially the musical differences within. And props for acknowledging diversity within Jewish cultures. My favorite aspect of continuity in this book was the classical music. I was heavily involved in music when I was in high school, so I know how dominating the discourse and activities can be on a person's worldview, especially when they enjoy it so much. Every time I saw a music metaphor or term, I smiled a little smile because of how real that made the main character. Also, Shostakovich was mentioned more than a few times, which brought out my inner nerd. The cello is my favorite instrument, so I really loved all of the stories involving it. I did find it super interesting though, that the main character, Mia, had never played in a group setting until she went to summer camp. Just goes to show that everyone learns differently, and great musicians can come from many different places, including a post-punk household.