Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Posted February 20, 2013 by Stormy in Books / 14 Comments

If I Stay

by Gayle Forman

If I Stay

Original Publishing Date: April 6th, 2010
Length: 262 pages
Got From: Bought on Amazon
Format I Read in: Kindle Book

Summary via Goodreads:

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. Mia’s story will stay with you for a long, long time.

My review:

Hold on, I have to replace my cup of tea because I just made my first cup salty with all my tears.

I don’t cry at books, really. I’m not a huge crier in general. To date, the only books that have made me genuinely cry are: Mutiny on the Bounty, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and now If I Stay has been added to the list. And when I say cry, I don’t mean a few tears dripped down my cheeks, all pretty and warmly sad. No, I mean I sobbed at this book. Legitimately had sobs racking my chests and had trouble catching my breath. This book destroyed me, and I love it for it.

There are so many wonderful things about this book, I don’t really know where to start. I love how much music is a theme of this book. Mia, our main character, is SO passionate about music, and I think that’s really relatable, because we all have things we’re passionate about. Every time Mia described how much she loved playing the cello, I thought about how much I love words–stringing them into sentences that impart a deeper meaning and reading when others do the same.

Mia’s family is at first heartwarming and then heartbreaking. I think it was a really great portrayal of a family that is close to each other and loves each other dearly, while still not being perfect. Sometimes in YA families are absent or just completely dysfunctional, and it’s hard to find a family that seems realistic. Mia’s family does, if a little unlikely.

Mia’s character isn’t your strong, fiery protagonist, but she has I think, a very quiet strength. She’s really a very normal girl except for her musical ability. You get the idea when reading this that you could easily pass Mia on the streets and not notice her at all. She’s timid and uncertain at times, but she’s also incredibly real, which makes the story that much more poignant. Like I said before, I think Mia has a type of quiet strength that really shines at points throughout the book.

Even though this book is emotional, it never felt gimmicky or like the author was trying on purpose to make me cry. The story was handled so carefully that I never felt I was being emotionally manipulated, even though the very premise of the book does promise a certain emotional reaction. Reading about the choice that Mia had to make and how she kept going back and forth because of everything was heartbreaking. It was an incredibly beautiful look at an individual life.

The plot in this book is pretty thin; I’d say it’s much more character-driven than plot-driven. It’s slow moving, though captivating, and while I loved this book, I think it’s important to point out because I know that this type of slow, introspective book doesn’t appeal to everyone. Just something to be aware of if you’re thinking about picking up this book.

Final Impression: From the beginning to the very end, I was captivated by the heartbreaking story of Mia and her choice. One of the few books to prompt such an emotional reaction in me that I actually cried, I recommend this book to everyone, even people who don’t traditionally like Young Adult. Such a beautiful book, and I’m sure it won’t be my last Gayle Forman novel. 5/5 stars.

You can find If I Stay on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, or the Book Depository.


5 Stars

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14 responses to “Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

  1. Lisa

    I haven’t yet gotten the chance to pick up this book, but many of my friends, and even my school librarian, have told me that this one is not only a tear jerkier, but also a must read. Great review, can’t wait to read it..and weep!


  2. Radiant Shadows (@RadiantShadowss)

    I like how you described Mia – that she has a quiet strength about her. I think that’s really the perfect way to describe her!

    It’s been a couple years since I read this, but Mia’s story is one that is impossible to forget; reading your review brought back many of my emotions that I experienced while reading If I Stay, so I can only imagine what a mess I would be with an actual re-read!

  3. Renae @ Respiring Thoughts

    This was one of the books I resolved to read back at the beginning of the year, and I’m honestly somewhat nervous about it. EVERYONE seriously loves this book, and I have the bad habit of being the world’s biggest Debbie Downer. Buuut—the way you describe this book sounds exactly like something I’d enjoy, Stormy. Character-driven, emotional but not gimmicky, strong protagonist. I really have no idea what I’m going to get with this. I HOPE I like it, though.

    • I was really nervous about this one too–sometimes the books that everyone gushes about are the ones I don’t like, but it really surprised me(in a good way). Hope you like it when you get to it!

    • Thanks! I’m really excited for Where She Went because I’ve noticed a LOT of people said that Where She Went is even better. I really like the idea that the book is from Adam’s perspective.

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