If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Thursday, December 4, 2014

About the Book:
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Source: Purchase
Publication Date: 2012
Find the Review elsewhere:
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Series: If I Stay, book 1
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary YA/Teen
Rating: 4 out of 5

As I’ve expressed before, reviewing secular fiction is a tough business. It’s more complicated than the Christian fiction that dominated my reading for years so I’m just going to follow suit with my methods of reviewing that and say this: If I Stay was probably the (best) most surprising read of the year for me. The reasons why are recounted below. First, for anyone who may be unfamiliar with the material, here’s a little about what the book is about. It tells the first-person narrative of Mia. A high-school junior whose life is a happy one with her kind-of hippie parents (her dad is a teacher and mom is a travel agent) and her younger brother, Teddy. She is never really sure who she is or what’s to be and in a family of rockers (her dad once had his own band and travelled on tour, a life Mia grew up in), Mia is a talented classical musician who plays the cello. A talent her family has never experienced until her. Into this life walks a student transfer named Adam who Mia explains just “was” when they met – he was confident in who he was already. Like her father, he’s a singer in a band and as his fame and recognition rises, he and Mia spend nearly every waking hour together. Though on this snow day when everything is not as perfect as their two years were, Mia’s life is forever about to change when it's struck by tragedy.

Expressing what I thought about this novel isn’t going to be easy as I’ve probably already hinted at. For starters, the thing that popped most while reading was what a beautifully easy read this was. To begin with, the book is on the shorter side (props from me as a reader) and then the prose flowed elegantly and without (for once) being more distracting than concise as it shifts between Mia’s present and her past. The latter is when we get to know who she  is with Adam, how he encourages her and makes her feel, the ways he keeps her true to the music she’s passionate about and brings her into her own; the former is the more “agonizing” read as Mia wavers between leaving behind the family she has left and staying to fight. The opening is really quite good, pulling us into the story without revealing too much of the main characters past yet we understand right away (as the accident happens as Mia sees her present play out almost as if in another’s body) that the present Mia is going to waver as her body lingers in a coma and she faces the choice of staying.

Surprisingly I don’t think I cried in the book though I found it a compelling story that kept me flipping pages and I liked all of the characters, a rarity in most books. Mia is an easily liked heroine who has to hold up the story and make it as believable as can be for the emotions to seem genuine. Adam too is a wonderful guy that pushes against stereotypes and I respected that he loved Mia so very much. Then there is that ending! Like, oh my heavens! What was that all about? It has a ring of letting the reader decide what they want and fortunately for book addicts, a sequel was written (I don’t expect we’re likely to see a film follow-up), a novel that I do plan to read this winter. To be honest though, it’s a book I don’t expect to like as well as If I Stay. There is something to be said about this book that I cannot quite put my finger on. It’s both frustrating (asking us to go through all we did with Mia then giving back no solid place to land) and heartbreaking by providing us with a girl who we sincerely care about and root for.

Synopsis: The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year.

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. ' - Goodreads
Content: There are multiple uses of the f-word (probably 10 or more, several coming in the span on 2-3 pages), other milder profanities like sh*t, h*ll, etc. There’s some sensuality (making out, thoughts of removing clothes) and discussion of losing virginity; there are always medical issues referring to a girl being embarrassed to be naked as medical personal work on her.

Coming Next from Gayle Forman: When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss. - Goodreads



  1. If I Stay is one of the best YA books I've read. I keep telling my 14 year old to read it, you'll like it. She finally one day was like fine. Took it and I didn't see her till she finished it pretty much. The book went every where with her. She loved it as much as me! :) I want them to make a Where She Went movie but Chloe is getting pretty big. Can't wait to see her in 5th Wave, another great book

    1. How fun! It's cool when you can convert people to your fangirl favorites, isn't it!? I just got my mom interested in Becky Wade's books, so that's fun. Definitely want to read Where She Went and I hope a movie is made too though I'm not holding my breath - and oh dear! Now I'll have to read The 5th Wave. :)

  2. I was so disappointed with it that I didn't even finish reading it haha I got about halfway through and was just like 'This isn't catching my interest at all', and let a friend have it. I may go see the movie...not sure. I have a rule to try to read the book before seeing the movie, but since I didn't like the book (and didn't finish it! haha), I may just see the movie. Maybe I'll like it on screen better than on the page.

    1. That's okay, Raquel. I was surprised with how "easy" a read it was for me! I really didn't expect that. If you see the film, hope you enjoy it more than the book. :)

    2. It was written well. I liked the style, and first-person is my absolute favorite. I also loved that it was based in my hometown/homestate. It wasn't very well represented, though. Maybe that's why I didn't like the book so much! haha

    3. That makes sense. It's probably not fun when a book is set in your home state and you notice things that are so not accurate. Beyond that, I'm glad you did like some things about it (the style) and for once, I totally loved this first person! :)

  3. Glad to hear you enjoyed the book, Rissi! This was the first novel I've read from this author (having heard so much about it as well from other book bloggers) and I greatly enjoyed it. Like you I cared for the characters, and I admit I may have gotten misty-eyed at one point (the part when she found out what happened to her younger brother *big sister role kicking in*).

    Are you going to/Did you check out the follow up novel to this book? I'm not sure I will, I don't think my heart can take the drama xD

    1. I did indeed, Lianne. Surprised me a lot. But I really did like it. I felt like the scene when Mia finds out about her brother is more emotional in the film, but then that could just be that I prefer the visual emotions to the written...? I don't know.

      I will read the follow up, yes. Just because the ending of this book wasn't solid. I'm not a fan of needless drama, but... well, I'd like to know how Mia's story ends. :)


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