If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Title:  If I Stay
Author:  Gayle Forman
Release date:  April 2, 2009
Publisher:  Dutton Juvenile
Pages:  208
Genre:  Young adult fiction
Source:  Library

In one moment, seventeen-year-old Mia is traveling in the car with her family, and in the next moment, she is standing outside her own body as she watches the aftermath of the horrific crash they were all involved in.  She watches as both of her parents are pronounced dead, and her younger brother is taken to a hospital in critical condition.  Then she watches as she is taken to another hospital, put in the intensive care unit, and hooked up to about a million machines to keep her alive.  Mia realizes that she’s lingering somewhere between life and death, and it is up to her to stay in this world or go, to whatever lies beyond.  She watches as her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, boyfriend, and best friend beg her lifeless body to stay alive, and she must make a choice.  She must make a decision about whether she can live a life without her parents, and possibly without her brother.  Is life even worth living if your entire world has disappeared?

If I Stay is an emotionally charged novel about one girl’s ultimate choice.  She has to decide to live or die, and she has to make this decision with the knowledge that her entire world as she knows it is shattered with the death of both her parents.  It is almost a surreal experience, reading If I Stay, because Mia is having a surreal experience herself – she is watching herself die, basically.  She is watching her boyfriend cry over her limp body, watching her best friend comfort her grandparents, and all the while feeling like she just might want to die.  She just might not want to deal with the kind of life she’s facing if she stays.  It was such an interesting experience for me to be inside Mia’s head while she was trying to decide what she should do, while she was watching her entire life change so drastically in front of her eyes.  She was a great character, she loved her family so much, loved her boyfriend, and loved her friends, she was such a sweet person and for her, she couldn’t imagine going through the rest of her life without her family by her side.  So for her, this really was a tough choice – she truly could not decide if she had the strength to go on.

This novel was shorter than I was expecting, and as a result I think I didn’t love it as much as I had thought I would.  It definitely packs an emotional punch, and I did fly through it in one sitting, but I think I was hoping to be blown away and I simply liked it.  This is not a criticism, this is just a reminder to myself (as usual) to lower my expectations!

I definitely enjoyed If I Stay. I really liked Mia and would have read about her for at least another 100 pages.  The story between Mia and her boyfriend was a sweet romance, and even though it was a small part of the book, I felt like I got to know him through Mia’s explanations of their relationship.  Forman really created the atmosphere I was looking for, it was haunting and surreal, and I really believed that Mia was speaking from a place of being in between life and death.  I definitely enjoyed this young adult novel and I would recommend it.


17 thoughts on “If I Stay by Gayle Forman”

    1. I have read both “The Lovely Bones” and “If I Stay,” and I adored both of them. The style the books are written in are different, but both are memorizing. In “If I Stay” it’s not so much that the main character is in purgatory, almost, as Suzy is in the “Lovely Bones;” she is deciding whether to live or not. If you enjoyed “The Lovely Bones,” then you most certainly will enjoy “If I Stay,” and I highly recommend it.


  1. GOSH, this sounds like it packs a huge, emotional punch. I don’t know if I’m up for it right now, but it sounds like a very charged book.

  2. I really enjoyed this book. I sometimes think that we, as adults, look at these books a bit different than a teen. I wish that there was this type of YA to read when I was a teen back in the Dinosaur Age!! 😀

    1. HI Lisa, I do think a 12 year old could handle it. Of course, it’s been awhile since I was 12 myself, and I don’t know any kids that age personally. But there’s no real violence or inappropriateness in If I Stay, and really it’s just the emotional-ness of thinking about losing one’s own parents that might get to her. But the writing and the story would be ok for her, I think.

    2. Lisa,

      As a young teen myself, I sincerely do believe a twelve-year-old will be capable of handling this book, although it does depend on which genres this person(s) are interested. But this is a very captivating book, and I highly recommend it.


  3. This sounds very similar to the Lovely Bones. It also reminds me of the Households Guide to Dying. In that books the main character is dying of terminal cancer, and it about her putting her life in order before she passes. There will be areview of it on my blog soon if you are interested in these sort of books (http://pageturnersbooks.blogspot.com)

    Sometimes it is nice to read books like this, that really get you thinking about some of life’s realities, like death.

  4. Even though this sounds like ‘The Lovely Bones’, it sounds good enough -and different enough- to read. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. Thanks for the review, Heather 🙂

  5. heyyy everyone im twelve i just finished reading this book today…AND I LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! its not innappropriate and it was just ahhhmazzinggg. its going to be the next twilight!!!!!!!! and im just saying be prepared to cry. I LUVV THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!

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