Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Now a major motion picture, If I Stay by Gayle Forman is the haunting tale of a young woman faced with an impossible decision.

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.

@Goodreads - @Amazon

First and foremost, ignore that little statement USA Today made on the cover stating that this will appeal to fans of Twilight.  Not that it won't (it very well might), but a statement like that might make the reader think that this novel is comparable to Twilight.  It is not.  If anything, I'd compare this novel to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, as it is written in an out-of-body perspective.  

The novel opens with a horrific, fatal car crash.  Mia, the protagonist, finds herself outside of her body, which is badly injured and lying in a ditch, thrown from the car -- brain contusions, broken bones, internal injuries, you name it.  She finds the bodies of her parents first, dead and horribly mangled.  Her little brother, Teddy, is missing from the scene, likely thrown from the car as well.  She watches as emergency medical workers clear the scene and transport her body to a local trauma center.  

Throughout the mayhem, Mia has a series of flashbacks about her life leading up to the crash.  The reader meets her family, her best friend, Kim, and her boyfriend, Adam.  Mia is an accomplished classical cellist on the road to Juilliard, with the most amazing, loving family imaginable.  Her parents are (I feel like an idiot for saying this) "hip", open-minded, tattooed, and just cool.  Her little brother, Teddy, is adorably sweet and funny.  Adam, her boyfriend, is hot and in a band.  

In between flashbacks, Mia watches over her friends and family in the hospital, also noting her progress.  She is in a coma, in critical condition.  She has grievous injuries, including some that happened post-accident, during her emergency surgery.  Mia learns from the way hospital personnel act towards her body that she may actually have a choice as to if she lives or dies.  

This was a really good, poignant novel, but I do have a few problems with it.  Firstly, it was a bit on the short side, weighing in at only a little more than 200 pages.  (Note: The Kindle version of this novel ends at 79%, which was a bit of a disappointment, because the end is naturally abrupt on its own.) Anyway, because the novel was so short, the characterization suffered a bit, and the love story between Mia and Adam felt a bit forced.   I did not believe in their love.  I did believe in Mia's immediate family, however.  I felt the loss of her parents and brother profoundly.  I felt the love from her extended family, as they visited her in the hospital after the accident.  But I did not feel anything for Adam, and I believe I was supposed to.   However, I'm old and jaded, and I know a love like theirs can turn sour on a dime.  They're teenagers.  He's in a band.  If Mia died, Adam would be getting laid on the regular in two weeks.  Meh.

This novel makes you think what you would do in Mia's situation.  I won't tell you if Mia decides to stay or go, but if I were Mia, I think I would have let go.  

(Actual rating 3.5)


  1. Great review! Gayle Forman is one of those authors that I keep telling myself to read but has yet to find the time to do so. This sounds like a really interesting book and yeah, thanks for the heads up. If I saw that comment about Twilight, I would have been turned off the book completely.

    By the way, I nominated you to do the Book Reading Habits tag.

    Obsessive Compulsive Reader


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