5 Stars, Book Reviews

{REVIEW}If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay, Book 1 of ‘If I Stay’ by Gayle Forman

(Click the book cover to see on Goodreads)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Length: 261 pages
Publication: April 6th 2010 by Speak

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.


‘If I Stay’ is written in first person with a mixture between present and past as most of the book is written in the form of memories, or flashbacks. The main character narrating the story is Mia, a high school senior. Even with her young age she speaks with a specific clarity of an education, mature teenager, who understands reality and the possibilities of what the future may hold. As such, her voice is strong if conflicted, and easy to relate to.

Pacing: The book itself is a quick read. The story is written adds the air of being told over the course of many years. Even so, the highlighting of certain moments in history allows for constant intrigue and divulge of information. This gives the story the feel of moving at a fast pace. Sometimes, the time stamps were a great reminder that the book occurred in a twenty-four hour time span.

World: The world is modern-day Oregon. Nothing’s magical. Nothing’s out-of-the-ordinary. Instead, a realistic, easy to connect with world is utilized and not over-emphasized in the story. The lack of world-building and scenery-creation allows for better focus on the story at hand.

Writing: The writing is seamless. Flashbacks can be difficult for writers and difficult for readers, but Gayle Forman does a wonderful job bouncing back and forth between past and present. It’s clear. It’s precise. It allows for a flawless, flowing story that fills in the blanks along the way. Additionally, this style offers for details to be given at certain points for greater impact rather in chronological order.

Non-Spoilered Plot: Mia, a high school senior, faces the struggles of choosing how she’ll live her adult life: New York City to play cello at Julliard, or Portland with her almost-rockstar boyfriend. Yet, that choice becomes even harder when she and her family are in a car crash. Now, stuck in a space between life and death, she must determine whether she wants to continue fighting for the possibilities that life could hold, or give up and let fate take her.

Character: Mia is a high school senior who loves and is accomplished at playing the cello. Despite being a teenager, Mia handles life’s dilemmas and turmoil with maturity beyond her years. She sees the world differently. She sees it with clarity. She understands the reality of the situations before her and the gravity of the choices she must make as an almost-young-adult. As such, her voice is strong and clear. Always knowing what she’s thinking and why makes it easy to connect with her.


Plot: The over-arching plot is one of choice, Mia’s choice. After being in a car crash with her family, one which neither of her parents survives, she’s stuck in a coma in the hospital. Even so, her conscious is in a place between life and death. She’s not able to interact with her surroundings, but she is able to see what’s going on around her while her body stays in the intensive care unit. This state allows her time to determine whether she wants to live or die.

To many this may seem like a silly choice, but for Mia it’s a difficult one. After all, while in her in-between state she learns that her little brother, Teddy, dies from his wounds as well, which makes her not only an orphan, but sibling-less as well. In other words, her immediate family is gone. For anyone this would be difficult, but for a teenager who loves her family dearly and is about to go off to college without their support, this is an earth-shattering revelation. This makes her decision both harder and easier.

While making her decision, Mia remembers her past, her life. These snippets are given in disjointed, non-sequential order, which worked in this book. It allowed for the release of information at times when they would have the greatest impact, and more accurately follow train-of-thought. After all, people don’t generally think of their lives sequentially. Certain memories impact them more than others and this is seen easily by which memories Mia recalls and why.

Along the way, friends and family visit her body. Some of them give her permission to leave this world, others beg for her stay, and each one has an impact on her choice. Yet, even when her mind is made up, ready to make her decision, love changes it. Love for everyone who lives and is gone. Love is what gives Mia strength in the end to do what she needs to do and make the decision that will be best for her.

The blend between rational and feeling play a huge role for Mia and each one is given their forefront, adding to the realism of her decision. For that, and the strong connection I felt for Mia during this book, I leave my rating of ‘If I Stay’ at five stars.


Have you read ‘If I Stay’ by Gayle Forman? What did you think of it?


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