Book Reviews

[review] If I Stay – Gayle Forman


Release Date: April 6, 2010
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal copy

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. Heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Mia’s story will stay with you for a long, long time.

Discovery: I first read this book in the summer of 2010, but for some reason, I don’t remember it at all. I picked up a copy about three weeks ago, reread it and now I can’t believe that I passed it over for so long. [I’m not sure why USA Today compared it to Twilight–that blurb is misleading, in my opinion, and had a role in why I put it off.]

+     Characters. I’ll just say it: I love each and every one of the characters in this book. (I don’t think I’ve ever said that before.) Mia and her family are so vibrant; their personalities fairly leap off the page and into one’s heart. Emotional commitment has always been a selling point for me, so is it any wonder that I fell into Mia’s story without a second thought?

Of course, everyone’s going to talk about how unique Mia’s family is: how often does one read about parents who used to be rock stars? The love in that family is unmistakable, and it quickly becomes one of the driving forces of the story. Mia loves her parents and younger brother, and that loss is earth-shattering at the very least. I didn’t realize that I was crying with and for her until close to the end of the book. For many people, family is who they are, and it becomes especially challenging for a teenager to lose them all in one swoop. I loved that If I Stay focused on Mia’s courage and inner strength, both qualities she learned from her family. In the end, this is Mia’s story, but she is who she is because of the family she’s lost and the friends who stay by her side.

+     Structure. If I Stay is told with alternating flashbacks in every chapter, detailing events that Mia remembers as she watches her family deal with the tragedy. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked the way the book was structured, but as I continued reading, it began to make sense. When we deal with terrible situations, it becomes natural to remember better times, to see things we didn’t think were important at the time. My fears that the story would be all about the mistakes Mia made were put to rest, and I love that each memory is full of love. This was a family that adored and appreciated each other, and Mia’s remembrance of their lives is truly heartbreaking.

+     Romance. All of you who told me that Adam Wilde is a boy to remember–you were so right. Even as I write this, I can’t help but giggle helplessly to myself when I remember scenes from If I Stay (and man, Where She Went just about devastated me). With the influx of love triangles in YA fiction, I find myself drawn to relationships like Mia and Adam’s. I think people forget about all the very real problems facing couples today: distance, personal insecurities, jealousy, et cetera. None of those things require a smoldering third party to be interesting.

And oh, how Mia and Adam fall in love is so fascinating to me. You could bring Darren Criss into the room, strumming away on his guitar, and I wouldn’t budge from reading and rereading their scenes with each other. (This is not a dare.) They are two people who you know belong together, but don’t take that for granted. They earn every minute together and appreciate that time for what it is.

The final say: At its heart, If I Stay is a story of love and its many manifestations, all of which will bring readers to bittersweet tears and a need to hug the people they adore.

Rating: Excellent.

Go visit Gayle Forman at her website and follow her on Twitter @gayleforman.

You can check out If I Stayon Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

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4 replies »

  1. Never heard of this before, but by the sounds of it I would never compare it to Twilight (though I don’t think I’d compare anything to Twilight). Great review, and I almost want to try taking you up on that offer of bringing Darren Criss into the room while you’re reading this (I would not be able to concentrate on anything else).

  2. There is no way that this book should be compared to Twilight. There is no comparison whatsoever!

    I loved this book and thought the sequel was fab too!

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