Although this was my first Gayle Forman book, it certainly won’t be my last! What a little gem this was!
If I Stay by Gayle Forman begins with a fatal car accident that kills both Mia’s mother and father and leaves her clinging to life. The entire book spans the twenty-four hour period following the accident, although present-day is interspersed with memories from her life – her love of music and the cello, her quest to be accepted into Juilliard, and her relationships with her family, her boyfriend Adam, and her best friend Kim.
The story is told from Mia’s point of view, but from outside of her own body, as though she were a third party observer. I could only assume that this was her soul waiting around to see where it would end up. Ultimately, If I Stay is about Mia’s journey to decide whether she wants to live or die.
Mia has always felt as though she never quite “fit” with the rest of her family, both in personality and how she looks. She also felt the same way about her boyfriend Adam in the beginning of their relationship, as though they didn’t quite click. You’d like to think that, even though her parents are dead, she would consider staying for Adam. It’s obvious that they are very much in love and have a strong connection. Still, there’d been a distance growing between them for the past few months, ever since Mia told him that she had applied to Juilliard. And that made me wonder if Adam really was enough to make her want to stay.
There is also her younger brother Teddy, who was in the car wreck as well but whose condition and whereabouts are unknown and never confirmed. Was he still alive or was he gone too? This was important information as it would undoubtedly have a lot to do with Mia’s decision. I just couldn’t see her leaving him behind.
I loved Adam. His Yo-Yo Ma (Yo Mama) jokes were hilarious, and I got the sense that he was a good guy who loved Mia with all his heart. Adam spends his time in the hospital trying to figure out a way to get into the ICU to see her. His attempts were somewhat comical and helped to lighten the mood, and I couldn’t help but admire his determination. I rooted for Adam to succeed the entire time, especially since Mia had admitted that seeing Adam cry would likely break her and greatly influence her choice.
I really enjoyed the unique perspective of having Mia watch events unfold from outside of her own body. Sure, If I Stay could have been written in such a way that she simply listened to everything from her hospital bed, but that would have been limiting. This way, she was able to “move” about the hospital and see the people she cared about, which naturally led to recounting stories about them.
There was never really a time in the book when I thought that Mia would choose to leave, except towards the end. For one long moment, I was no longer so confident with what her choice would be. Her journey at arriving at her final decision was touching and heart-wrenching, and definitely very deserving of 4.5 stars.
Update: I’ve actually changed my mind on the rating and have bumped this from 4.5 to 5 stars.