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.