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.
If I Stay is a very powerful and emotional novel. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down and finished it within 24 hours. It deals with some dark themes, including death, but manages to make the reader both laugh and cry at points throughout the book. I actually had tears streaming down my face at some of the most intense moments of the book. However, If I Stay isn’t just a story of tragedy; it is also a story of romance and friendship.
The main characters, Mia and Adam, were very easy to relate to. As a musician myself, I loved that their romance was founded on their connection through music. Even though they are quite young, the relationship is based on more than just physical attraction and desire. Mia is a high school senior and a very talented cellist who is waiting to hear if she has been accepted into Julliard. Adam is a year older than Mia, and is the star of a rock band called Shooting Star, which is growing in popularity.
If I Stay begins by showing Mia’s strong relationship with her parents and little brother Teddy, which is lighthearted and relatable. The story takes a sudden, dark turn when they are in a car crash and you fall apart with Mia as she realizes what has happened. From that point on, If I Stay is told from Mia’s point of view as she goes through an out of body experience, while deciding whether or not she wants to live or die. Mia’s life story is woven throughout her decision, which provides relief from the tragedy that she is dealing with and allows the reader to gain a better understanding of what Mia is facing.
Mia takes you on an emotional journey as you learn about all of the people that she cares about and that care about her while she contemplates her decision. The loss of her parents and little brother Teddy hits the reader in the gut and makes it easy to understand why Mia is so tempted to slip out of life and move on. Her grandparents, best friend Kim, and boyfriend Adam all influence Mia’s final decision. Kim displays true loyalty and friendship, Adam shows sensitivity and love, and her grandparents demonstrate the emotional strain that such an accident can have on a family, as well as how different people cope with catastrophes. One of the most captivating characters is the nurse in the ICU, who tells Mia and her family that it is her that makes the decision of whether or not to survive, and not the doctors. She goes out of her way to make sure Mia’s loved ones can visit her and her actions to help Mia play a large role in the final decision.
As much as I couldn’t put this book down, I also found it a little difficult to read. Emotionally, it hit some of my strongest fears on the nose and I could put myself in Mia’s position almost too easily. Despite that, I really enjoyed this book and am really looking forward to the movie, which comes out in August, and stars Chloë Grace Moretz as Mia and Jamie Blackley as Adam. I am intrigued to see how the out of body experience is portrayed on screen and look forward to seeing Mia and Adam’s story come to life. After finishing If I Stay, I immediately read the sequel, Where She Went, which tells Mia and Adam’s story three years after the accident, and finished that quickly as well. Gayle Forman’s writing is relatable, emotional, and transports the reader into the story she is telling.