Published: April 2010
Genre: young adult, contemporary
Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she’ll ever make.
It was supposed to be an ordinary day, a drive with her family to a friend’s house — not an extraordinarily tragic day where she sees her family scattered and bloodied across the road, and herself among them. Mia watches the medics race her from the scene to the hospital’s ICU, witnesses the hoards of family and friends rushing to see her. Mia, the quiet and serious girl who applied to Juilliard for the cello; Mia, daughter with now-dead parents’ love for music running through her veins; Mia, the oddball girlfriend to cool soon-to-be-rockstar Adam; Mia, who must now decide to join her family or live a full life.
Do you ever wonder what would happen to your friends and family when you die? Do you ever wonder how they would react, what they’d say and do? It’s so morbid a thought, but Forman runs with this idea, and the idea of choosing whether or not to live, and witnessing the procession of love while debating this difficult decision.
My heart ached through the entire book. Mia’s loving family of musicians — the rocker parents and their community of free-spirited punks, the quiet Gramps and comfortingly chatty Gran, the adorable spitfire of a brother Teddy — was equally foreign and familiar. Their love for one another ran as deep as their love for music. Music is a big part of the makeup of my family as well, and reading this book felt like coming home. The heart of their love, of the music, felt authentic — names and songs and compositions were dropped left and right, but it never felt pretentious or assuming; it was simply a fact, a part of their conversations, a true part of their lives. To witness the collision and the subsequent aftermath was jarring and heartbreaking, and only made stronger for each seamless flashback Mia had when contemplating whether or not to pass on or fight for life.
Though a romance is in this book, this book is not a romance. It is about death, life, and music. It is about difficult decisions, about fighting for what you love, for who you love. Her whole life, Mia felt like that odd one out in her punk rock family — the only one to enjoy classical music, to choose a classical instrument. Then she stumbles across Adam, and for the life of her she can’t figure out why he’s remotely interested in her. Adam, in her eyes, is fully realized: he knows who he is, what he wants, and his rock career is already taking flight. But his devotion to her, his complete and unconditional love, is so deep that it’s not just a “high school” relationship. Mia’s parents are right when they say they’ve fallen in love the adult way. Mia and Adam have their flaws, and they fight and struggle and work hard at their relationship, picking through the insecurities and restoring faith in one another. It’s beautiful — which makes her comatose state even more heartbreaking. Who is she without her parents and little brother? And yet, who is she without Adam, without her cello, without music?
What would you choose?
3 thoughts on “Book Review: “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman”
Hey! great post.:) I’m in the second chapter of this book right now and my heart keeps beating like crazy, its amazing how people can fell so much without actually experiencing things.!
I’ve been told to read this by a handful of people, but never got around to it. Reading this, I had chills the whole time which I think means I definitely need to read it. You made it sound so amazing.
It really is quite moving. Read it before even more press for the movie takes over!