If I Stay by Gayle Forman

 A cancelled day of school leads to an impromptu road trip for Mia and her family.  It is the last thing she remembers before “waking up” to see her family spread across the pavement as the result of a car accident.  Mia then sees herself, mangled after the accident, and realizes she is now in limbo.

What follows is a series of flashes between the past and the present.  Mia, a talented 17-year-old cellist, reminisces about life with her family, her best friend, Kim, and her boyfriend, Adam.   Mia’s parents were very liberal, very loving, and very nontraditional.  They encouraged Mia and her brother Teddy to follow their dreams, not standing in the way of anything they wanted to try.   Kim and Adam helped Mia step out of her comfort zone and try things she might otherwise have avoided.

As she lies in a coma, a result of her injuries due to the accident, Mia must ultimately make the decision to remain with her friends in life or follow her family into death.   As the only surviving member of her family, it is not hard to see why this decision would be such a difficult one.

Gayle Forman creates a dilemma for Mia that anyone would find troubling.  What would you do if you “awoke” from a terrible tragedy to find yourself alone?  Knowing that you will face an uncertain future with no family, would you risk it?

Foreman creates such an astounding dilemma, it is not hard to see why this novel garnered such acclaim.  I have to honestly tell you, however, that I do not understand previous book critics’ desire to relate this novel to either The Lovely Bones or Twilight.  While the story obviously has a “supernatural” element, as Mia is having an out of body experience, that is really its only tie to The Lovely Bones.

And with no sparkly vampires and an obvious lack of shape-shifting Native Americans, the only reason that this would appeal to readers of Twilight is because both books are in the Young Adult genre.

Forman’s novel would be better related to those of Paige Harbison or Lauren Oliver, minus the “you must get this right to get out of purgatory” idea.   If you have to minus, then it is probably best to allow a novel to stand on its own and to give the writer her own applause.

All in all, this was a great novel.  Forman creates the tension and leaves Mia with such a troubling choice, you keep wondering which she will choose.  It is well thought out and well-written, with the right balance of past and present and shifts between each that do not leave you dizzy.

Be forewarned, there are several instances of harsh language, and some parents might not be thrilled with the informality of the relationship between Mia and her parents.  For me, the language is not a major issue and the relationship is clearly one of love, so it doesn’t matter that it isn’t the cookie cutter idea of how parents and children should interact.

I really enjoyed this book, and I had actually gone in search of it because I had received the sequel Where She Went.  I read this one first, loved it, and quickly moved on to the next (review  forthcoming).   It is a quick, thought-provoking read, one that I could certainly read again.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.