“If I Stay”
by Kaylee Stinebiser
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Number of Books in Series: 2
Is there anything more important in life than family? What makes someone family?
“If I Stay” tries to answer these questions by recounting Mia Hall’s thoughts and feelings as she faces a literal life-or-death decision. After a winter-weather car accident takes her family away and leaves her in a coma, Mia finds herself floating between earth and heaven, faced with the decision to live without her family or pass on with them.
The story follows two plots. The first is set in the present-day while Mia observes the happenings in the hospital as she sleeps in her coma, and the second is set in the past, where you learn more about how Mia’s relationships with her parents, her brother, her grandparents, her best friend Kim, and her boyfriend Adam have developed — key components to explain Mia’s choice.
If you’re looking for a heartfelt, suspenseful, emotional read that brings life to a life experience that people can only guess about, then add “If I Stay” to your reading list.
Actually, I would recommend that you add it to your bookshelf regardless.
Gayle Forman does a beautiful job of crafting characters that feel like they could be real people, and that makes the novel even more emotional. Mia’s family is dysfunctional and comical and loving, and her parents are doing their best to raise a family by working more typical jobs after leaving behind their rock-and-roll history. The characters have stereotypical qualities that Gale turns into a unique situation — a cellist dating a lead singer in a rock band, for example. It’s not what you’d expect, but it works, and it’s interesting.
The two stories shift back and forth constantly, but it’s not confusing. Present-day pieces of the story are labeled with time stamps. In addition, Forman wrote each part of the story in the respective verb tense, so the reader can easily tell if the events are happening in Mia’s life currently as she is in her coma or if they are part of her past.
The reader learns new information about Mia’s past experiences at the perfect moment because in the next chapter, it applies to Mia’s thoughts and reactions to what’s happening around her in her coma. This makes the story flow wonderfully.
The book has a lot of romance, but the romance isn’t the focus of the plot. So someone who loves to read romance novels will definitely be interested in this book. The reader learns about Mia and Adam’s relationship, both how it started and how they’re struggling to make it work as Mia chooses a college.
However, someone who prefers to avoid reading romance shouldn’t put it back on the shelf too soon. A lot of the book describe’s Mia’s childhood, like how she developed a passion for playing the cello despite attending her father’s rock concerts. The reader can use all of these insights to predict what Mia’s ultimate choice will be, but you never really know until you get to the last chapter.
Go along for the ride as Mia relives the best and worst moments of her life, ultimately deciding if she wants to continue living.