Book Review | If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay #1) by Gayle Forman

Published by Speak on April 2, 2009

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Format: Paperback

Pages: 261

Source: Purchased

Goodreads: ★ 1/2

The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year.
Soon to be a major motion picture, starring Chloe Moretz!

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.



I was hesitant to pick up If I Stay by Gayle Forman for a very long time after hearing such mixed reviews about this young adult novel. I finally got to it during this year’s Booktube-a-thon, and I am so glad I did. If I Stay follows teenager Mia when she and her family are in a devastating car crash. Her parents die in the crash, and her younger brother is critically injured. Mia is in a coma, but is having an out-of-body experience where she can see everything that is going on in the hospital, but cannot communicate with the friends and family members who come to visit her. Mia must decide whether she should stay and continue living without her parents, or whether she should let go and die. Readers follow Mia as she reflects on this decision, and shares moments of her life from the past to help make her choice.

When I first began the book, I was a little underwhelmed. I liked the characters and the story, but the writing seemed a bit simplistic. However, as I continued reading, I quickly became emotionally attached to the characters in the novel. Forman is an incredible storyteller. She has the ability to put so much feeling into the book without needing flowery writing. I teared up several times throughout If I Stay because of how well written the book is.

Similarly, I think the back-and-forth in time format works really well for this novel. It helped put me inside Mia’s headspace more, as I could understand her feelings by going into the past and reliving her memories. For example, I especially loved Mia’s grandfather, whom she calls Gramps. He is a quiet and gentle man, but one who plays a huge role in Mia’s life. I really connected with his character, and because we got to see him interact with Mia in her memories, what he does in the present is even more meaningful. Mia has a very special relationship with all of the people in her life, and it was really interesting to see these connections through her memories.

Moreover, I liked the way music plays a role in this novel. Mia is a classical cellist, and is very passionate about the music she plays. Her parents loved punk music, and her boyfriend plays in a punk band. Not only does music help the characters strengthen their relationships, but it also helps to build emotion in the reader. I think Forman used this element well in the book, because music is something many of us can connect with on a personal level, no matter what type of music we enjoy.

As for the ending of If I Stay, I did really enjoy it, but it also stops quite abruptly. I would have really liked just a bit more, perhaps in the form of an epilogue. There is a second book called Where She Went, and I will be reading that very soon to see if I get any answers.

Overall, I am surprised by how much I loved reading If I Stay. It is a short book, but it packs an emotional punch. I did watch the movie adaptation on Amazon Prime shortly after reading the book, and I liked that a lot, too. I highly recommend picking up the book first, though, as you get to know the characters a lot more. If you liked The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Album, I think you’ll enjoy this book as well. It created the same feeling within me as a reader, and gave me an inspirational and hopeful message on life. I will definitely be reading more books from Gayle Forman in the future!


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  1. Sarah T says:

    I really enjoyed If I Stay when I read it a few years ago. I actually had read Five People You Meet in Heaven around the same time, and though I didn’t think of it at the time, I can see the similarities in feeling between the two. I highly recommend Where She Went as well!

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