Settle in for a heartbreaker.
Once you hear the premise of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, it doesn’t take long to realize this isn’t exactly going to be a feel-good read . . . but you’d be surprised how ultimately uplifting this tale can be.
Seventeen-year-old Mia is out for a car ride with her parents and little brother Teddy when the horrific happens: on a slick, snowy street, they’re struck by a truck. Her mother and father are killed instantly, Mia comes to realize . . . as she stands outside the vehicle, looking at her own crushed body and those of her loved ones. Everything happens as if in a dream; Mia watches it all unfold, powerless and voiceless.
After she’s transported to a hospital and her grandparents arrive, desperately trying to talk to her as she remains in a coma, our narrator realizes she has a choice: stay in this terrifying new world without her parents, but with her loving boyfriend Adam and extended friends and family, or leave — rejoining her family in whatever exists in the hereafter.
Forman’s small, sharp novel delves deep into what it means to be a family, including those attributes that both divide and unite us. Told over the course of just one day, If I Stay flashes back to Mia’s life in Oregon and shows us clearly the type of brilliant, focused and loving people her parents were. I loved learning about her dad’s rock star past and could definitely feel the fierce protective quality her mom had for those whom she cared about the most. Knowing, as we do, that neither of them survived the crash adds an entirely different dimension to the story . . . and makes the anecdotes all the more powerful. These recollections have shaped Mia into the person she was — and is — today.
My absolute favorite aspect of the story was definitely Mia and Adam’s love — the sweetness that was the beginning of their romance, and the understanding and compassion they had for one another as it deepened. Joined through their love of music, Mia worries before the accident that Adam’s band’s rocketing success will eventually drive them apart — especially considering Mia’s devotion to the cello (not exactly the most punk-rock of instruments). Forman does a remarkable job of capturing the innocence and obsession of first love, my most favorite of topics!
As you’d expect, themes of death and grief are certainly prevalent — and a few graphic passages didn’t sit well with me. I was definitely rooting for Mia and hoping she’d make the right call, but I don’t know what in the world I would do in her situation — and pray I never have to even go there. I guess that’s why the novel left me with a crater-wide pit in my stomach . . . the realism of the story was scary. Because this trauma? It could happen to anyone. And like the dystopian fiction I’ve been so fond of lately, this story could be our story. Any of us.
But overall, a deeply moving but understated novel that does more with less — and chooses to focus on the humanity of the characters — and all of us.
4 out of 5!
ISBN: 0525421033 ♥ Purchase from Amazon ♥ Author Website
Copy purchased by Meg
21 thoughts on “Book review: ‘If I Stay’ by Gayle Forman”
Great review, Meg!
I’ve been wondering if I should add this book to my TBR list for quite some time, and now I will.
I’ve heard so many fabulous things about this book! My library is getting a copy of “If I Stay” soon, and I’m very much looking forward to reading it.
Uh-oh! Another one to add to the ‘ol wishlist (thanks Meg, LOL!). Your review is wonderful, I really got a feel for this book and I’ll have to check it out. Happy Monday!
I just loved this book. I could read it again and again.
Wow, that sounds so powerful and gripping. I think I’d need tissues close by if I read it.
You have a flair with the words which makes your reviews so wonderful to read!! I loved this book too!
Wow this sounds like a very powerful read! Thank you for the great review and passing on the recommendation!
i’ve seen this one around and was totally intrigued by the storyline…your review makes me want to add it to the ‘library list’! i’m off to do just that. 🙂
I loved this book, it is incredibly sad yet you are left with a greater sense of hope. It is so beautifully written, I know that I will read it again in the future.
Beautiful review of an interesting book Meg. I think you’re pulling me closer to dystopian books, especially this one!
It will be on my list 🙂
Great review. I’ll definitely be adding this to my TBR list, thanks!
Great review. Sounds too touching and heartbreaking for me though.
I really liked this one. I still remember the part where she played him like a cello 😉
Wow, this sounds like a really moving novel. Great review, it sounds like you touched on a lot of the really poignant points that this book attempts to make through its very interesting story line. Definitly adding it to my TBR list.
I really liked this book too! It was heartbreaking and well done.
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Stories about grief and death are very compelling to me. This sounds wonderful. Thanks for your eloquent review!
Oops … the last comment was from me. I was logged in under the wrong username. Yikes!
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