If I stay by Gayle Forman (Book Review)

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What this book is about:

Mia is a 17-year-old high school student and cello player since she was very young. Her parents whom she loves very much were badass punk rockers in their youth and they are still kind of crazy (in a good way!). She also has a 6-year-old brother, Teddy. There are a few things that Mia is ashamed to admit. She really enjoys spending time with her family and she feels that she kind of doesn’t belong due to her different music affiliations. Mia also has a boyfriend, Adam. Adam is crazy about Mia and they have one big thing in common other than their love for each other. Their love for music. On a normal, kind of snowy day, Mia’s family decides to go on a car ride to some family friends when they get into a horrible car accident. Mia goes into a coma and in the hospital she has to decide if she wants to stay alive

If I Stay is formatted a bit differently than most YA novels that I’ve read so far. There is a small amount of actual swearing, something that I personally appreciate in all books since swearing is a big part of our lives and it makes a story more realistic. There are a few gory details when it comes to the car accident scene which I also appreciated because it’s a horrible car accident for Christ’s sake! Why downplay it? There are also some scenes that I doubt will be in the movie (which I haven’t seen yet so these scenes might indeed be there) but made the whole experience of the hospital seem real, devastating and depressive, just as it should be in cases like this.

Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.

On the other hand, this is a story that feels very familiar. A girl in a coma having an out of body experience and going through her life in her mind as if it was a movie. Remembering some nice moments and some sad moments. And the ending, at least to me, was too predictable. So this story is not about the ending. It’s not a story with twists and turns that tries to bring the surprise at the end. This story is about the story; and I did like that quite a lot!

I realise now that dying is easy. Living is hard.

One big part of the book that was not only powerful but also entertaining and very interesting to read, was the family part. Not just Mia’s parents and brother but also her Granparents who rarely appear in novels and even the family friends. All of these people played a role in Mia’s life and appeared in her memories. This is real life. Our parents and siblings are not the only significant family members worth mentioning and I enjoyed Gayle Forman‘s family characters very much.

Love, it never dies. It never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang on to it.

Apart from the family part of the book, a big and significant role in Mia’s life is linked to her best friend, Kim, and her boyfriend, Adam. This is a novel about people’s relationships and it was so interesting to explore these relationships between Mia and Kim, Mia and Adam but also Kim and Adam or Adam and Mia’s family. People make us and we make them. We change, we adapt to each other or we fall away from each other. The fact that Mia is going through these moments she had with different people in her life while in an out-of-body experience allows Mia to narrate the stories with just the right amount of emotion so this book doesn’t get out of hand. In tragic situations like these, emotions are overflowing and covering every inch of functioning brain, so this book wouldn’t have worked out in such a structured way, if Mia was “narrating” consciously.

Losing me will hurt; it will be the kind of pain that won’t feel real at first, and when it does, it will take her breath away.

Finally, we come to the music part. Music was everywhere in this book. In every relationship, in every character, in every memory. I can’t say that the musical part of the book was integrated perfectly in the story. The presence of the music, the cello, the guitar, the drums, could have been even stronger (emotionally), in my opinion, but I still did enjoy how Gayle Forman brought the whole thing together. Her message definitely came across: “Music is powerful and empowering”.

You can have your wishes, your plans, but at the end of the day, it’s out of your control.

This is a story consisting of parts of memories coming together to build the big picture of Mia’s life and everything she lost in the blink of an eye. It’s a very short book – my Kindle version was 196 pages – and it reads very easily and quickly. Most people probably already know, but it has also come out on the big screen and since I liked the book I will definitely check out the movie too. I would recommend If I Stay to anyone who enjoys YA novels, books about people’s relationships or books about music.

You can check out the movie trailer here if you are interested:

Have you read If I Stay? Did you like it? What are your thoughts on Mia and her story?

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If I Stay
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