Thursday, June 2, 2011

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay                               
Gayle Forman
Dutton Juvenile
January 2009
196 pages

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.


Yes, I am so late to the party that no one remembers the party on this one, but I still want to review it!  I knew enough about the story from reading previous reviews to know what happens to the main character.  I knew she had something catastrophic happen to her so that she lingered between life and death trying to decide if she should stay in her life or let go and die.

I had always assumed Mia had her immediate family surrounding her and the decision to stay or go is because she'll be crippled or in a vegetative state.  I never imagined how much she'd lost and what family was surrounding her.  I was also so wrong about why she was questioning whether she should stay or go.  Mia is sitting outside of her body after the accident trying to comprehend what is going on.  She doesn't see her parents or brother the same as she is, so she looks for them.  What she finds is conclusive that she and Teddy are orphans.  And then later she realizes that Teddy is dead and she is left alone. This is what factors in her decision on should she go.

Mia is a cellist, totally opposite of her rock and roll parents and brother and her boyfriend, Adam.  In fact, Adam and Mia seem to be total opposites except for their total devotion to music.  Adam endures classical music for Mia and she endures his rock band gigs though not so graciously perhaps as Adam.  Their love seems very mature for such young characters and is notably the kind of love that grows over time instead of insta love.

Mia is unusual in that she loves spending time with her family and on this day of the accident, a rare snow day, the family sets out to visit friends and later grandparents.  The tragedy strikes before they ever make it.  Mia stands outside of herself watching and listening to everything going on.  She knows Adam will be there soon and he creates several disturbances trying to get in to see her-even bringing in a pop star as a diversion.  But his attempts are in vain.  He mourns the loss of Mia's parents and brother as he waits with the family.  He loved them, too, and now they're gone.  When he finally gets in to see Mia, it's only for a second before she's whisked away for emergency surgery.

The whole story is narrated by Mia and if you didn't know Where She Went was coming out or is out now, you'd be on tenterhooks wondering about Mia's decision.  I would think she was leaning towards going.  Her grandfather sits at the end of her bed and tells her he wants her to stay, but if she needs to go, then he understands.  The problem is that Mia doesn't feel the tug to go back into her body so she can either stay or go.  It's not until Adam finally gets to see her and he says, "Stay."  It's one word, but not the only word he says.  He utters many promises to her, he'll leave her alone, he'll quit his band that's on the verge of stardom, but he can't imagine her not growing up and getting married and having kids and playing the cello.  That combined with him playing cello music through a pair of headphones for her brings her crashing back to her body.  It's as if he made the decision for her.  Was it fair?  Everyone else was willing to let her go knowing what was ahead of her, the therapy, the sorrow, the loss, the pain, who knew if she'd even be able to play the cello again.  But Adam selfishly asked her to stay.  But I can't decide was it selfish?  He loved her yes, but he was willing to leave her if that's what she wanted.  He just wanted her to have a life.  A full life.  The gamble was whether she could have a full life.  Had to read the next book to find out!

Mia and Adam were both great characters.  Mia was so strong despite all her losses and she felt for those left behind.  Adam was strong, too.  He was so desperate to see Mia he would do anything to get in to see her.  But he hadn't only lost Mia, he felt the loss of her parents and brother almost as much as she did.  Her family understood him more than his own family did, brought together by their love of music.  I loved that about Adam.  That he didn't just want Mia to stay, that he was grieving for her family as well.  She wouldn't be alone in that if she stayed.  Yes, there would be plenty of people grieving for them, but Adam had shared many intimate moments with them.  Gayle Forman really knows how to write a compelling story.  I couldn't put this one down and picked up Where She Went as soon as I finished.  Of course I did.  I had to know what happened!  I recommend both books.  Get your tissues, settle down for a nice long reading session and have both books to read.  Then go for it.  I can't wait to see what else Gayle Forman writes!

Heather in Sandwich


  1. I'm really late to the party on this one too, I still haven't read it even though every time I see a review like yours I resolve to go get it at the store:) This sounds like such an emotional read and those are always the ones I remember the most! Beautiful review Heather:)

  2. Yay! You finally made it to the party. IIS was one of my favorite reads last year. Truly. Compelling.

    Just as you said. I love Mia and Adam.

    Great review, Heather.

  3. Thanks Jenny and Missie!

    Jenny- Join the party! I'll be doing a review of Where She Went Soon! I loved this duo.


  4. Great Review Heather! I loved If I Stay and Where She Went to much. I'm so glad you loved 'em too! :D

    Where She Went Is my favorite because it's told from Adam's perspective. I loved Mia's in If I Stay, but I read enough 1st person books about females that Adam's was so refreshingly awesome. :)

    Kelsa P.

  5. Hi i'm a new follower :).
    I loved If I stay and you review is really great :).
    I really loved it because of the main character Mia. I felt a connection with her.
    I wanted to start playing the cello for a few years and I picked this book because I read in review that Mia was a cellist. And now after reading it i'm totally determined to start playing the cello next september :).
    Anyway sorry this is problaby annying for you ^^

    I received Where she went this morning ! I'm going to start reading it right after writing this comment ^^

  6. So many people have been raving about this book and I can't wait to read it! One of my friends didn't like it actually, but I still want to try it out. Great review!


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