Book Review – If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Hello everyone,

I’d like you all to do a favor for me. Right now, close your eyes and imagine yourself when you were… 17. Got that image? Let’s begin.

Forman, Gayle. If I Stay. Dutton Penguin. 2009. 320 p. 014241543X.

Genre: Fiction/ Romance

Summary/ Analysis

If I Stay tells the story of 17-year-old Mia, a talented cellist who seems to have everything a 17-year-old would want: a loving family, a best friend, a life that’s actually going somewhere, potential, oh and of course, a punk rock boyfriend named Adam. But everything changes when Mia and her family get into a car accident one morning while driving to a friend’s house. Suddenly, Mia is in spirit-like state and can see herself and her family in the aftermath of the accident  — her mother and father were killed instantly and her brother’s fate is to be decided. She follows her body to the hospital and must fight to stay alive as she herself is in critical condition. Throughout the novel, she recounts memories and wonders if it is better to leave this life or to stay.

So normally a teen romance novel is not the first book I would grab when I go to Barnes and Nobles or my local library but I will admit I did want to read this novel after I had seen the movie (with Chloe Grace Moretz). And yes, it was everything you are thinking of and more. I remember reading Thirteen Reasons Why off of a recommendation from a friend but I couldn’t finish it because I was so bored by it I wanted to bang my head against a wall. What I am trying to say is, trust me, I am the first person to roll my eyes when it comes to teen romance. Now, If I Stay has its good parts and bad parts but for the most part, it’s just a bit confusing, to be honest. Mrs. Forman does well in recreating memories that exude emotional responses; they’re touching, agonizing, and melancholy all at once. And she does well in capturing her audience. I mean, if I went back in time I’d probably eat this book up and dissolve in the puddle of my tears but unfortunately, this book didn’t hit me like the others I had read. So I was a little disappointed. This novel goes between past and present, which is Mia in the ICU. Mia is split between the all too familiar “life or death situation” (somewhat literal). She wants to go to Julliard but her boyfriend’s band “Shooting Star” (seriously?) is making it big and will probably be touring someday but as of now, Adam will be staying in Oregon. Will she go follow her dreams or stay with her first love? Or will they do a long distance relationship? As we explore the past, meanwhile in the present, hordes of Mia’s relatives and friends sit waiting and praying for her recovery. As Mia’s spirit wanders around through the hospital, she sees how much she is loved by each person in her life and she devotes her fate on something a nurse says, that everything is up to her. If she lives or if she dies, it’s all up to her. And as a teenager, she takes control of this. She merely mentions of how much of a loss her best friend and relatives would lose but doesn’t really consider how gutted they would be and remain as. She focuses a bit of her attention on her younger brother who is in another hospital. But most of her attention is on her boyfriend, Adam. It is Adam who has the most impact on her, not her best friend nor her family but Adam. Now, don’t get me wrong, Adam’s a nice guy but I mean, really? A guy she’s only dated for what, like a year? Maybe two? Ok, my rant is over. Mrs. Forman’s downfall I’m afraid is that she put emphasis on the memories but not enough in the present. I apologize if this analysis was mostly a rant but it had to be let out. Someone on wrote a review that was titled “If I Stay? Please…go already” and I could not stop laughing.

Teaching Ideas:

Individual reading definitely. Besides, I feel like this book is one of those books meant be read for individuals instead of group reading. As for reading level, I’d say it fits 9th grade to 12th grade — perfect for high schoolers. This book deals with the usual teenage themes but also has many music references that people such as myself will fail to appreciate because Mia’s family is a music family. This book is relatable especially due to its morally significant themes. It would be interesting to have a discussion about feminism in class in relation to this novel as there are little bits in the book that point towards that direction. We can create a timeline and try to map out the book in chronological order. We can also discuss how being placed in this situation, literally life and death, changes Mia’s perspective on life multiple times and it’s funny because teenagers are known to be dramatic and think that everything is life or death, which to be honest, I guess I’m still a teenager myself then.

Rating: 3/10. Don’t think I need to explain myself further.

Next book review will be on….Every You, Every Me by David Levithan. Excited for this one!





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