Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

EBOOK; 196 P.
SPEAK, 2009

A critically acclaimed novel that will change the way you look at life, love, and family.

On a day that started like any other, Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she’ll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

A couple months ago If I Stay seemed to be on everyone’s lips. I’d heard of the book before, often together with The Fault in Our Stars, because both books were adapted into films in 2013. And because the book came highly recommended by one of my blogger friends, I decided to give it a go.

If I Stay is set in Washington, where a family of four decides to go for a drive on a snow day. However, the consequences of that drive are rather tragic, and as Mia, a 17-year-old high school senior wakes up by the side of the road, she is feels nothing – because she isn’t there anymore. Her parents are dead, her little brother is rushed to a local hospital and her body is flown over to Portland’s main hospital. Mia is stuck in the middle of life and death where she alone must decide whether she stay or lets go. As she watches by her body and the people that visit her in the hospital, we get a glimpse of what her life was before the accident, her dreams and passions, her rock star boyfriend, and more.

The main character of If I Stay, Mia, is a talented cello player and has been accepted to study in the prestigious Julliard after graduation. The music aspect of the story intrigued me from the very start, and the book features a lot of music references, both classical and popular. Although the story focuses around Mia’s life and her experiences, I found her parents to be the most interesting characters of the story. In a way, they are the definition of cool quirky parents that all the teens wish they had. They have interesting backgrounds, memories, and friends – and, for me, they seemed to be more realistic than the main character. Gayle Forman writes in the afterword of the book, that part of the story was inspired by her own experience of suddenly loosing two of her friends, which might be the reason why I felt that at times the side characters of the story were taking over.

Forman’s writing is interesting and pleasant to read, but it still left me cold. Another big theme in the book is first love as many of Mia’s memories focus on the relationship of her and her boyfriend Adam. I appreciated the honesty with which Forman writes about relationships, but to be honest, I wasn’t that into this aspect of the book. Some of the scenes in the book seemed a bit too far fetched, and though I enjoyed the flashbacks to Mia’s past, it didn’t really form a coherent story. The whole book felt more like snippets of a story than a fully fledged one. I do not mean to say that the book was bad, but I was simply expecting it to pack a bigger punch. It is an enjoyable read but didn’t rock my world. I’d recommend If I Stay to younger readers as well as to those who are planning to see the film.


“Your mother is probably right,” Dad said. “Social services frowns on drunk ten-year-ols. Besides, when I dropped my drumsticks and puked onstage, it was punk. If you drop your bow and smell like a brewery, it will look gauche. You classical-music people are so snobby that way.”


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