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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I had to check If I Stay by Gayle Forman out of the library twice before I finally got it read. The first time I was overwhelmed by the great reviews I had read and I really wanted to devote time to read it. Then I went on vacation and had to return the book so it wouldn't be late. I immediately added my name back to the list and this time around read it right off the bat. I'm glad I choose to get to it instead of letting it linger, because (as expected) it turned out to be a great book.

What is it about? Mia is a 17 year old high school senior and cello player. She has everything- the perfect boyfriend (why weren't there guys like him at my high school??), the perfect family (but not in an annoyingly perfect way), and she's about to be accepted to Julliard to live her dream. One winter morning her family is in a car accident with a horrible outcome. Mia is in a coma and has to decide if she wants to stay or if she wants to die. This sounds like it would be a horribly depressing book but it's really not. It's about her life, not her possible death. The story is told in alternating flashbacks and the present and Mia is able to see and hear everyone around her and is able to think about what she really wants.

So what did I think? It doesn't quite live up to what I expected. It was a great book and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, but it didn't pack the emotional punch that I thought it would.

The long version: The writing in If I Stay is excellent. The characters, all of them, felt true to who they were and not too much of a caricature. Her family is definitely too perfect to be real- fiery protective mom, ex-punk rock turned professor dad, adorable 7 year old brother who thought Mia hung the moon. Her boyfriend Adam is also great, and is potentially more swoon-worthy than Wes. He does have some flaws and their relationship isn't perfect, which I was happy to see. I adored her grandparents, every scene with Gramps made me tear up.

The musical references are great. Mia plays cello, which is the instrument I'd play if I had any musical talent at all. I love Yo Yo Ma and reading this made me pull out my cds for the first time in a long time. I would love to know what music Forman listened to as she was writing the book. Here's a link to Yo Yo Ma playing adante con poco e moto rubato, which is the last song mentioned in the book.

It would seem that a book about life and death would by default be a depressing book. Everyone who has read it cried and cried and I was prepared for that. I actually waited to read it until I could be alone because I expected to sob. I didn't. Oh, I teared up here and there, and the ending certainly made me cry, but it wasn't the sobfest I expected so if that's putting you off you can stop worrying. It was really a book about life itself and what would make a person choose to stay even if it would be painful.

If I Stay is definitely in the same catagory as Wintergirls for me. It's serious and it's topic has the potential to be depressing, but in the end it feels good to have read the book. I'd recommend this to anyone who liked Wintergirls, or Speak, or 13 Reasons Why. It's harder to read than the two Sarah Dessens I've read- This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever. You wouldn't go wrong to buy it in hardback (Amazon has it for 11.55 ) if you're the type of person who rereads books. I'll probably reread the end before I return mine to the library.

I'm going to try to rate my reviews again but haven't decided on a scale. If I end up with a 10 point scale, this one gets an 8.

Have you read it? What did you think? Did it make you cry like a baby?

Here's some other reviews, if you need more urging.

And the author has a blog, here.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Dutton Juvenile


208 pages


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Wasn't Adam a REALLY great character? So real and sweet.

  2. I really loved Adam.

    I think the parts that had me crying the most was when she found out about Teddy, the scenes with Gramps, like you mentioned, but also all the stuff involving her extended 'family' I don't have that, I've never had that feeling of belonging to something like that, so that was really sad for me.

    I'm glad you read it.

  3. Maybe this one was over-hyped for you. I haven't read it, but I sure would like to.

  4. I'm sorry this one fell a tad short for you. However, thanks for reminding me about Yo Yo Ma. His music is just beautiful and I need to listen to more of it.

  5. I have this one and Wintergirls on my shelf and really hope I have time to get to them soon.

  6. I just picked up This Lullaby at Half Price Books for 50 cents. Quite proud of myself. I keep looking for something by Anderson or Green, but I think those are just hard to find used. I'm sorry this one didn't have the punch you were looking for--even though it sounds like a really good book with interesting characters and themes, I'm still not interested really. What's wrong with me???


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