4.15.2015 | Wednesday

If I Stay

category: Book Reviews

If I Staytitle: If I Stay
author: Gayle Forman
series: If I Stay #1
published: 224 March 2009
publisher: Speak
genre(s): contemporary, romance
pages: 213
source: bought
format: eBook
buy/shelve it: Amazon | B&N | BookBub | Goodreads

rating: four-stars | series rating: five-stars

the blurb

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.

my review

There are certain books that just emotionally drain you, and this was one of them.  There are moments of sadness, moments of happiness, moments of pain, and moments of sweetness.  It is a book whose story just stays with you.

I love the way the story of If I Stay is constructed.  It is told from Mia’s point of view, but it isn’t just her version of the present.  Instead, it travels back and forth through her history and those of the people she loves.  This gives the entire book a bit of a bittersweet quality, as you experience loss with Mia.  You are a part of her world after the fact and it makes the present all the sadder.  It is a story of. a girl with an incredibly quirky and fun family, a snarky best friend, and rocker boyfriend who represents everything she herself is not.

Mia’s family is built on music and love.  Her dad was a former punk rocker and her mom his biggest fan.  Mia’s boyfriend Adam was a rocker whose career is growing even before he finishes high school.  And then there is Mia, the classical music loving cellist who is on her way to great things.  But, in a single moment, everything changes for her and for her family.

The author doesn’t shy away from the tough situations or questions that arise from Mia’s personal tragedy.  Instead, she makes Mia and the reader question themselves about fanily and choices.  What is a family?  How do you choose when faced with such diverse choices?

This is a book about family and tragedy and unthinkable choices, but it is also a story of beauty.  It speaks of the bonds between those we love.  And with these themes, there is also the love between Adam and Mia.  Their romance was beautiful, sweet and passionate.  It was music that brought them together, no matter how different the two expressed it.  And it was their differing musical genres that often threatened their relationship as their music took them in very different directions.  I liked that their relationship was portrayed realistically.  Instead of painting everything as perfect, it touched on problems and dischord.

The interesting thing, however, was in how I related to Adam and Mia.  If I Stay was Mia’s story, but it was Adam that I identified with the most.  There were moments during flashbacks where I felt like Mia was unfair or too demanding and it was Adam who was the sympathetic quality.  And Adam’s pain and anguish and selfless love was beautiful to watch.  I watched the movie shortly after finishing the novel and I felt the same way for most of it, as well.

If you like a good, emotional read that isn’t all perfect happy endings, then this is an excellent read.  The story is beautiful and sweet, even as it is tragic and sad at times.


About Gayle Forman

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a journalist who specialized in reporting on young people and social-justice issues. Which is a fancy way of saying I reported on all the ways that young people get treated like crap—and overcome! I started out working for Seventeen magazine, writing the kinds of articles that people (i.e. adults) never believe that Seventeen ran (on everything from child soldiers in Sierra Leone to migrant teen farm workers in the U.S.). Later on, I became a freelance journalist, writing for magazines like Details, Jane, Glamour, The Nation, Elle, Budget Travel, and Cosmopolitan.

In 2002, I went traveling for a year around the world with my husband, Nick. I spent time hanging out with some pretty interesting people, a third sex (we’d probably call them transvestites here) in Tonga, Tolkien-obsessed, role-playing punks in Kazakhstan (bonus points to those of you who can find Kazakhstan on a map), working class hip-hop stars in Tanzania. The result of that year was my first book, a travel memoir called You Can’t Get There From Here: A Year On the Fringes of a Shrinking World. You can read about my trip and see pictures of it here.

What do you do when you get back home after traveling the globe for a whole year? First, you get disproportionately excited by the little comforts in life: Not having to look at a map to get everywhere? Yay! Being able to drink coffee without getting dressed and schlepping to a café first? Bliss! Then, if you’re 32 years old and have been with your husband for evah, you have a kid. Which we did. Presto, Willa!

So, there I was. With a baby. And all of a sudden I couldn’t do the kind of gallivanty reporting I’d done before. Well, you know how they say in life when one door closes another opens? In my case, the door came clear off the frame. Because I discovered that I could take the most amazing journeys of my life without ever having to leave my desk. It was all in my head. In stories I could make up. And the people I wanted to take these fantastical journeys with, they all happened to be between the ages of 12 and 20. I don’t know why. These are just the people who beckon me. And I go where I’m told.

My first young-adult novel, Sisters in Sanity, was based on another one of those social justice articles I wrote when for Seventeen and you can click here to read the article. Sisters was published in 2007. My next book, If I Stay, was published in April of 2009 by Dutton. It is also being published in 30 countries around the world, which is surreal. The sequel/companion book to If I Stay, Where She Went, comes out in April 2011. I am currently working on a new YA novel, that is, when my kids (plural, after Willa we adopted Denbele from Ethiopia) allow me to. And after that book is finished, I’ll write another, and another….

Wow. This is crazy long. I suppose the short version of this bio could simply read: My name is Gayle Forman and I love to write young-adult novels. Because I do. So thank you for reading them. Because without you, it’d just be me. And the voices in my head.

Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in such publications as Jane, Seventeen, Glamour, Elle, and The New York Times Magazine, to name just a few. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Rating Report
Overall: four-stars

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