Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

IfIStay_zpsf82a8001Title:  If I Stay (#1)

Author:  Gayle Forman

Published: April 2nd, 2009 (Dutton Juvenile)

Pages: 234

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Tragedy

Format: Paperback

Source: Purchased

Rating: Four Stars

Goodreads Summary:

Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make

Purchase: Barnes and Noble / Amazon / The Book Depository

Cover Thoughts: I like the girl on the cover and the dark background. It sort of sets up the mood that If I Stay has.

First Line: Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. And in a way, I suppose that’s true.


First Thoughts:

If I Stay begins with Mia’s family sitting in the kitchen. They discover that school is cancelled for Mia and her younger brother Teddy due to the snow. Mia’s family decide to go on a family outing. While driving, Mia’s family gets into a car accident leaving everyone except Mia dead. As the only survivor, Mia is left in a comatose state. She then has to make the heart wrenching decision whether to stay without her family whether to stay or let go. 


Heart wrenching is the only way I can describe If I Stay. From the haunting beginning sentence, I could tell this was going to be a hard read. It’s tragic enough that Mia’s family has died in an accident, now she has to decide on her own whether to stay or go. On one hand, her immediate family is dead and on the other hand, she has her boyfriend Adam, her best friend Kim, and all her distant family waiting for her to come back. If I Stay is a story that had me twisted in agony over her decision.

If I Stay is a very character driven novel involving Mia’s decision. If I Stay is told in a series of flashbacks and real time. While in a comatose state, Mia is still able to see her own body in the hospital as well as travel through the hospital. Mia thinks back to her family, friends, boyfriend and her future to figure out what to do. I think Forman did a very good job at showing readers it could go either way for Mia and that it is a very difficult choice to make.


Mia is seventeen years old and plays the cello. I really enjoyed Mia’s character. She was very realistic and relatable. I believed every word she spoke. Mia was an insecure character who sometimes didn’t feel like she belonged in her family because they were more rock while she was classical. She also didn’t really look like her parents at all. I felt her insecurities were well written without her being whiny. Mia was also a little insecure about playing her cello at times. I liked Mia playing an instrument such as the cello and being interested in going to Julliard. Although Mia was very good at playing the cello, she wasn’t stuck up or a snob about it, which was nice.

One of the highlights is the relationships that Forman created in If I Stay. Right away readers can tell what kind of family this is. They like to joke around with each other and enjoy each other’s company. It was nice to see this family aspect in If I Stay as a lot of Young Adult novels gloss over the family aspect by talking about them rather than actually showing their families.  Mia’s family is very close-knit and she likes to be around them. This was something I liked particularly reading about because generally teenagers in fiction don’t want to be around their family.

Mia’s parents were very fun to read about in flashbacks. Mia’s mom and dad were both rebellious rockers before they had Mia. Mia’s dad didn’t learn how to drive until Teddy was born. I like the way Mia’s parents interacted with her and Teddy. A lot of the times throughout If I Stay, they give Mia advice and it was just really nice to see such a close relationship there. In the beginning her parents weren’t sure about her Cello playing but that changes once they see how serious she is. One of my favorite lines in If I Stay is when Mia is talking about Mia’s dad and mom getting married and how her dad said “Girlfriend” is such a stupid word, I couldn’t stand calling her that. So, we had to get married so I could call her “wife”. It was nice that Mia’s parents both got background information and how it was used. Mia’s mom had a dysfunctional family whereas her dad had a relatively normal close family which Mia’s mom liked.

It was cute seeing Mia’s relationship with Teddy. She says half the time he felt like her brother and the other half it was like he was her own kid.

I liked seeing Mia’s distant family come to visit her in the hospital too. At one point in If I Stay, Mia’s grandparents went to see her and a nurse came up and said whether Mia stays or goes, it’s her choice. I liked the addition of this story that patients are given the choice to stay or die. This makes Mia wonder if everyone gets the choice like hr. 

Mia has a boyfriend named Adam who is in a rock band. I like Adam’s character a lot. He was a bit swoon worthy, patient with Mia. Adam singer/songwriter. I enjoyed that Mia and Adam both had their separate lives from each other. Mia played the Cello while Adam was in a band. They were also in a semi-long distance relationship and not attached to each other every day. After Mia is in the hospital, Adam does some pretty crazy things to try to get in to see her. I found it all very sweet.

Mia’s best friend is Kim. In the beginning Mia and Kim weren’t exactly best friends when they met each other in middle school. They were assumed to be because both were quite and studious. In If I Stay, Mia tries to get Kim and Adam to be friends with each other but they just don’t click. I thought it was nice how Mia wanted them to be friends but understood they didn’t need to be despite her wanting them to. I loved seeing Mia and Kim’s friendship because they seem really close and are there for each other.

I loved seeing Mia and Adam’s relationship expand from friends to a couple. Seeing their first date was very sweet. I liked that Mia and Adam weren’t a perfect couple. They were fights and decisions that had to be made. They both acknowledged in their minds that when Mia graduated, things would change. Mia and Adam both had different plans for themselves that they tried to get the other to agree to. I like how Forman didn’t create a cookie-cutter perfect couple relationship and gave the characters realistic problems.


I loved every bit of this story. I felt very torn over what I wanted Mia’s decision to be because there were reasons for her to stay or go and either would have been painful. If I Stay was so real, heartbreaking and emotional. One moment you’re laughing, the other you’re crying, at times it’s almost even possible to forget about the accident. Forman did a fantastic job with all of the characters. If I Stay is a painful, honest inspiring read. This book left me crying for Mia and her loss. I think it will make readers examine their own lives, their relationships with others and what they would do if they had to choose to stay or go. If I Stay will have readers crying, laughing and hanging on every word of Mia’s journey to see if she stays. I would have liked to see more of Mia and Adam’s flaws, but other than that, this book is fantastic. I rate If I Stay four stars.


About Amber (YA Indulgences)

Amber is a 20-something woman who enjoys reading, writing, listening to music and taking walks. She has a book blog called YA Indulgences . She is still trying to figure out what she's doing with her life, but she's confident that time will tell. In the meantime she's heading towards the goal of becoming a renowned blogger. View all posts by Amber (YA Indulgences)

7 responses to “Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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