Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I stay cover

If I Stay
By Gayle Forman
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Series: If I Stay #1
Release date:
Rating: Sob fest

Warning: Do NOT read If I Stay in public. The blurb gives away major portions of the plot (why do they do that?) but it boils down to seventeen-year old Mia having been in a serious car accident with her family.  The book follows her as she decides if she should stay. Basically you are going to cry. 

I have read the book before.  I knew what was going to happen and yet I still cried.  I started crying on page 16 and sort of intermittently wept until the last page. At one point I was ugly sobbing which confused and concerned my husband and made it very difficult to read.   And then I was very very tired.

First person present tense books are a deal breaker for some people.  They aren’t my favorite either.  In this case however the choice is perfect.  It serves to highlight the uncertainty of Mia’s present situation.  Everything is happening at this moment and we don’t know if there will be another one.

Gayle Forman is a master and making characters believable and true.  Mia’s parents were a great example of this.  They seemed as if they were real people with lives before and beyond their daughter.  You can see this with her father’s transition from punk rocker to proto-“conservative” and her mother’s feminism and strength.  I find it interesting that her parents are “cooler” than her. 

Mia is a wonderful character.  Gayle Forman managed to write a seventeen-year old who thinks like a seventeen-year old.  Mia is mature but she isn’t an adult in miniature.  She has quirks and insecurities.  She is sometimes awkward and sometimes resentful of the people around her as we all were/are.  Sometimes, in writing likeable characters’ authors forget to write them young.  That was skillfully avoided here. In contrast Forman also manages to make the romantic relationship between Mia and Adam seem mature and as is mentioned in the book “not like a high school romance”.

The flashbacks were skillfully used and touching.  They were incredibly human moments such as the impromptu picnic in the backyard, her mother making pancakes for breakfast, Teddy insisting on wearing “the Mufflers” to one of Adam’s concerts.  Sometimes they were funny which just made Mia’s loss all the more painful for us as readers. 

If I stay is an excellent example of how music itself and playing music specifically can be used to further a story.  Mia’s relationship with her cello is documented from the first time she picks it up.  We can see the ups and downs. She loves it, realizes how much time she is putting into it, get lonely with with, learns the joy of playing with others, makes the choice to try and make it a career.  It is as fully formed a love story as any between two people.

If I Stay is a new YA classic for good reason.  If you haven’t read it, you should. Immediately reading the sequel Where She Went.

From Goodreads:
The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year. 
Soon to be a major motion picture, starring Chloe Moretz!

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. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.