Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Posted August 20, 2014 by Jessica in Jessica, Reviews, Young Adult / 107 Comments

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Series: If I Stay #1
Published by Speak
Published on: April 2 2009
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 213
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

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This is the first time I’ve reread If I Stay . . . and I’m happy to report that after five years, it’s still a fantastic book.

It’s amazing to me how, in just a few short pages, Forman is able to make you care about the Hall family. REALLY care. REALLY feel it when Mia begins to watch from outside herself, as her life, her world, is completely destroyed.

My dad smiles and taps on his pipe. He started smoking one recently as part of this whole 1950s Father Knows Best retro kick he is on. He also wears bow ties. I am never quite clear on whether all this is sartorial or sardonic—Dad’s way of announcing that he used to be a punker but is now a middle-school English teacher, or if becoming a teacher has actually turned my dad into this genuine throwback. But I like the smell of the pipe tobacco. It is sweet and smoky, and reminds me of winters and woodstoves.

And just as Mia is never certain about which her father is being—sartorial or sardonic—I’m never certain on which Forman is being either. It’s been so long that I can’t remember what my first impression of this book was, but when I started reading this time, I was worried . . . worried that this older-and-wiser me was going to hate the book that I previously loved, b/c several times Mia and her parents come across as nothing more than pretentious hipsters, who are too damn cool for everyone, but as I continued reading, more and more insights into Mia’s perspective and preoccupation with her own (lack of) coolness were revealed, and instead of being irritating, in this one, singular situation it made sense.

Mia’s parents really are that cool. It’s not pretense. It’s not affectation. Her mother has moxie, her father is geektastic with a formerly punk twist, b/c he played drums for a punk band, not b/c he listened to it on the radio. Her seven year old brother has “verve,” and says things like:

“I’m gonna be eight in December. Then I’m a man and you’ll have to call me ‘Ted,'” Teddy reported.

And Mia . . . well, Mia plays cello.

Not that there’s anything wrong with playing the cello . . . but comparatively . . . it could give a teenager issues. Especially when her father makes jokes about Mia being switched at birth, b/c she doesn’t even look like the rest of her blonde-haired, blue-eyed family. AND b/c Teddy was born at a birthing center where a mix up was impossible—neither intended to be in any way hurtful to Mia, but come on . . . you remember what it was like . . . scrutinizing off-hand comments, psychoanalyzing conversations . . .

If I was the brunette counterpart of my Arian family, and my parents refused to let my kid brother be born in a hospital, I could definitely see myself wondering . . . if they were wondering . . .

The point is despite the inherent coolness of Mia’s family, it’s a real family, and Mia’s recounting of them is full of bittersweetly recognizable truths.

And in this story . . . one of those truths is that Mia has to decide if she will stay.

That decision is a painful process. I’m not going to lie, I sobbed audibly while reading this book. But Mia’s story is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking, as hopeful as it is bleak, and I would not give up getting to know Mia and her family for anything. This is one of the books that will stick with you for years.

So please . . . do yourself a favor and read it before going to see the movie when it comes out on Friday. You won’t regret it.

If I Stay series:

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My name is Jessica and I live in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’m trying my hand at writing, but mostly I read. My favorite genres are Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, and the YA versions of those genres, but if there is a book of a different color getting lots of buzz, I’ll read it too, just to be informed. If I’m not reading or writing, I’m probably on Goodreads or Pinterest or baking blueberry pies because I love them.

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107 responses to “Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

  1. It’s funny. Because the whole time I was reading it, I was astounded by how I cared about Mia, Adam and her family. And I agree, it’s a true testament to Gayle’s affective writing. Though I wasn’t a fan of her Just One Night duo-logy, I’m anxious to read more of her work.

    Watching If I Stay this weekend. How about you?
    Joy (Joyousreads) recently posted…Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

    • I started reading Just One Day, and after a few chapters of MEH, I put it back down. I’m sure I’ll read it eventually, but right now, I’m happy with being in awe of of this duology 😉

      I don’t know . . . books that I LOVE that get turned into movies are rarely hits with me . . . we’ll see 😉

  2. I definitely second that! It’s better to read the book before seeing the movie! I love Where She Went more than If I Stay but both books had me bawling my eyes out and I really do hope the movie meets expectations and does well in the box office so we get Where She Went adapted too, I don’t know why but that book just have a special place in my heart. I’ve read these books 2 years ago and have not done a reread, maybe it’s about time I finally do. Awesome review Jessica!
    Amir recently posted…ARC Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

    • Thanks, Amir! It was definitely time for a reread for me. I totally checked out last Friday, and read them both back-to-back. It was FANTASTIC 😉 I hope you love the movie. I’m afraid to see it, I think . . . Books I love this much never translate well onto the big screen for me . . .

  3. I fell in love with Mia and her family when I read If I Stay, too, and the trailers I’ve seen for the movie are pretty darned promising!
    You actually made me want to do a re-read now, and that doesn’t happen very often as there are just so many new books to read! But Mia is an awesome heroine, and it’s so heartbreaking to read about how she realizes that her parents and her brother aren’t there anymore, and that she has a choice to make now – stay or not?
    Beautiful review, Jessica! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this re-read with us!
    Lexxie recently posted…Review: All Fall Down – Jennifer Weiner

  4. It’s nice to see that after so much time it’s still so good mainly because I know our taste usually changes. I heard about it I confess but I haven’t read it in fact but I should try. Thanks for the review!

  5. *hangs head in shame* I’m scared to read this book Jessica! Everyone just loves it so I’ve been putting it off for years for fear that I’ll be the one person who doesn’t much care for it. FAIL! I also know it’s going to make me sob like a little girl, so that’s been a deterrent as well despite the fact that I love books that make me cry. I just don’t like knowing they’re going to do so going in or I get all stressed out. I’m ridiculous, I know:) SO glad this book was equally good the second time around!

    • It’s not ridiculous, Jenny. I rarely go for this kind of book, and I’m pretty sure the only reason I read this one was b/c I didn’t know any better. That being said, it’s worth it. I hope you do eventually read it, b/c it’s one of those books that I wish I could make THE WHOLE WORLD read. It’s just that good. It’s like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. For realz 😉

  6. God it’s been so long since I read this book but I’m going to a showing tonight for the movie so I wanted to skim a few pages and refresh my memory. I love how you still managed to enjoy this one 5 years later, how the older and wiser you could still connect with it. I also love how you focused on the family aspect in your review, not the romance at all. While I liked the romance If I Stay was more about Mia’s family for me than anything else.
    Lily recently posted…Ugly Love:Review

    • Me too. I liked Adam, and the relationship was definitely important to the story, but it was Mia’s family that really slayed me. I cried ugly tears over this book, and I didn’t even resent the resulting headache. SO GOOD. I’m glad you loved it too. I hope the movie is all you’re hoping it will be.

  7. I totally enjoyed this series and I think I read it sometime last summer or maybe last fall, can’t remember. I picked it up because I think Gayle delivers truly impactful stories and this one is no exception. While I enjoyed the series as a whole, the second book really got to me. I’m not sure that I can explain why but nevertheless it did. *shrugs* But man, there were plenty of moments in the first and second book when I was a teary-eyed mess.

    “The point is despite the inherent coolness of Mia’s family, it’s a real family, and Mia’s recounting of them is full of bittersweetly recognizable truths.” <– EXACTLY.

    As always…fabulous review my friend! ♥

    I'm not sure if I will see the movie or not…

    • I loved them both. But I think I liked this one slightly more. I was afraid in Where She Went. It was even more emotionally exhausting, LOL. That’s probably why you liked it more. *snickers* When it gets tough, my knee-jerk reaction is to bail. *shrugs*

      Thanks, Cristina 😉 I don’t know if I want to see it either . . . it’d be almost impossible to live up to the book . . .

  8. I’ve only read this recently for the first time, in anticipation of the movie but also as a book club book. I wasn’t as moved by it as many people seem to be. I found the flashbacks a bit much at times but I’m really curious to see how that looks in the movie (which I will see soonish with the same book club). Did you read the sequel? I liked it a lot more.
    Julie S. recently posted…Ruin and Rising Review

    • Yes, I read them both back-to-back last Friday. I seem to be the black sheep with these book though, b/c I think I liked this one best. ALL of my friends liked Where She Went more though, so you’re not alone. I hope you like the movie! I don’t know if I want to go see it . . .

    • I ugly cried while reading this book. I doubt that you’d go back to it this late in the game, but if it helps, Where She Went wasn’t nearly as traumatizing. Not for me, anyway 😉

  9. Oh man this book! Such an emotional read and such a beautiful story! Glad to see you enjoyed it, too, and I can’t wait to see the movie! This is one I’m sure I’ll reread myself in a few years. did you also read the sequel? I liked it even more!!

    • I did read the sequel, but I’m like the only person who liked this one more, LOL. I loved them BOTH, but this one . . . this one was the one that REALLY got me. I’m glad you loved them too, and I hope the movie lives up to your expectations!

    • Thanks, Kim! And believe me—no one avoids books that make you ugly cry like I avoid books that make you ugly cry, but this one is SO worth it. I hope you do decide to read it sometime, but it’s just a beautiful story.

  10. Berls from Fantasy is More  

    You’re like the fifth person (whose opinion I really trust) to give this an incredible review. Which is why I’ve located it at one of my local libraries, got on the waiting list and should be able to read it early September. Not like I was going to make it to the movie right away anyway – I hardly ever do! I’m pretty sure I’ll sob hard core. And I’m excited! (something must be wrong with me LOL)
    Berls recently posted…Scent of a White Rose by Tish Thawer | #COYER Audio Review

    • You will. Not even gonna try to sugarcoat it, LOL. That being said, I almost NEVER intentionally read books like this, but YES, this one is completely worth your tears. I hope you decide to read it eventually 😉

  11. Amber Elise  

    I have this book, but I can’t make myself read it because I don’t want to cry! Just not yet anyway!

    I’m happy that it’s a good reread, some books (and media) don’t have staying power. And I will definitely read this before I see it though!

    Thanks Jessica! 🙂
    Amber Elise @ Du Livre

    • I hope you do read it eventually, b/c it is so worth your tears. I typically avoid books like this like the plague, and probably wouldn’t have read this one if I’d known what I was getting into, but I don’t regret it. SO good 😉

  12. I really need to read this soon. Jennifer did a guest review for me on this one and I knew I needed to read it but now I feel like I need to read it right now. In my defense I will have a few months before I watch the movie because there is no way I’m going to ugly cry in the theater. Heck, I cried watching the trailer I know it’s going to be a tearjerker and I would rather do that at home. Anyway…I promise If I Stay is getting moved up on my read list ASAP. Great review as always!
    Ginny recently posted…Book Review: Miss Mabel’s School for Girls (Network Series, #1) by Katie Cross

    • Thanks, Ginny! And REALLY—this book is up there with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games for me. It’s one of those books that I think THE WHOLE WORLD needs to read. I don’t think I’m going to see the movie at all, b/c I don’t see how it could live up to the book 😉

  13. Poor Mia, I can definitely relate to her. My parents may not have been in a punk band but they’ve certainly got their own coolness happening. And I played flute for a decade. At least cello is sexy! Ain’t nothing sexy about the flute (but I still love it!). I am a bit wary of re-reading this one too, since when I first encountered it I was in middle school and adored it…but maybe I’ll give it another go before I see the movie since your re-read was such a positive one. 🙂
    Danya recently posted…Short Fiction Review: Warm Up by V.E. Schwab

    • DANYA! This is completely unrelated . . . okay, mostly unrelated, but I must impart a truth about flute players that you are most likely unaware of—you need to find yourself a nice trombone player. *snickers* I’m completely serious. I also played the flute, and my husband plays trombone, and he and his fellow trombone players discovered that nearly ALL of them, and ALL the other trombone players they’d ever met, were ALL married to flute players, LOL. Apparently the personality types drawn to those instruments mesh well. TRUE STORY. That is all.

      Okay, not all, b/c this book is freaking fantastic, and completely worth your tears. You know me—I avoid heavy books. But this one . . . this one is the exception 😉

  14. Zoe

    Okay…this is awkward. I am SUCH the black sheep when it comes to this book – it’s not even funny. However, I am SO glad to hear you liked it Jessica! It is definitely a tear-jerker, and I’m glad you felt the effects of that! 😉 Thanks for sharing Jessica, and BRILLIANT review! <3
    Zoe recently posted…The Body in the Woods

  15. Mogsy from BiblioSanctum  

    An epic, WELL-WRITTEN and a tearjerker YA that impressed Jessica? I’ve seen these books around but never really paid much attention, I may have to take a look now 😀

    • This one completely sneaked up on me. If I had known, going into it, that it was a tearjerker, I probably wouldn’t have read it. But I didn’t know. That being said—NO regrets. It’s right up there with Harry Potter and The Hunger Games for me.

  16. Can you believe that I am absolutely scared of reading this book? I don’t know why I am… I just know that this is supposed to be quite enlightening and heart-breaking and I’m scared I might not survive. This is the reason why I still haven’t watched TFiOS yet… I don’t want to go through all the drama and emotional turmoil a second time.
    Faye recently posted…ARC Review: The Jewel by Amy Ewing

  17. You’re SO right about how much Foreman makes the reader care for Mia’s family! At the beginning of the book, I was wondering how much I would really like all the flashbacks. But the book wouldn’t be the same without them and the reader wouldn’t love Mia’s family as much! It’s great to hear that you still loved the book the second time around. Is reading the sequel worth it?
    Lina recently posted…Review: ‘Of Poseidon’ by Anna Banks

    • YES. Reading the sequel is so worth it, and IMO, is not nearly as harrowing. It’s still a very emotional read, but I cried less, hoped more, and got the resolution I was desperate to get. You should definitely read Where She Went 😉

  18. Could you believe me if I tell you I didn’t know about this book…. I know… sometimes I live in La La Land.
    After reading your review I know I have to read it. Don’t know if I’m in the mood for an emotional book, but I’ll get it all the same to have it ready when the moment comes.

  19. I remember really liking the book but I am not rereading until after I see the movie with my mom next week. It was one of my first after Twilight and everything was amazing then and I have honed my preferences since then, so great to hear it was great after all that time

  20. black bird or sheep of the family huh. I might have to consider having a look at this – I mean you loved it but I don’t know I’m so blah about YA right now LOL. I think I heard there’s a movie but I’m not one of those “I must read the book then watch the movie” folks.

    Plus I don’t dig sad books. I don’t want to go into it knowing I’m going to be made to be sad. Mogsy and I were just talking about those types of books they don’t usually work for us – for different reasons.
    Tabitha (Not Yet Read) recently posted…Gasp! I DNF’d it – Where Silence Gathers, Evil Librarian & more

    • I’ve been really blah about YA too, LOL. And I’m not necessarily that type of person either, but for THIS BOOK, I am.

      I don’t dig sad books either, usually, but when I first read this, I didn’t know any better. I do not regret it though. That is all 😉

  21. Now you’ve made me want to re-read If I Stay, Jessica. I’m very curious as to whether or not I’ll look at it differently than I did 5 years ago. I’m glad that you found it just as fulfilling as you did before. And I really want to go see the movie. Thanks for the touching review.

    • Thank YOU, Brandee 😉 And yeah, I’d be interesting in hearing if you still liked too. I wasn’t as thoroughly enamored with it as I originally was, but I think that has more to do with the reading-critically mentality than being older and questionably wiser, LOL.

    • I don’t think I’m going to see the movie either. I just don’t see how it could live up to the book. And yes, I have read Where She Went, and I’m one of the only people who liked this one more, so believe me when I say it’s worth it. I thought it was anyway, but I NEED resolution. Especially after everything Mia went through.

  22. Ohhh Jessica! <3 I'm so glad to see you posted a lovely sobbing review of your re-read. As you know, I loved the IF I STAY movie and immediately put it on my nightstand when I got home to reread it, but I have to admit I was afraid of doing it, too–what if it didn't live up to my memories? But you've reassured me that all will be well, even if I cry my heart out.

    If you ever do end up seeing the film, I would be really curious to see what you think of it.
    Wendy Darling recently posted…Sacrifice (Elemental #5) by Brigid Kemmerer: review

  23. Oh well, I already have plans to go see the movie whenever it comes out here with one of my besties, since she loves more emotional drama movies and chick flicks, so she’s my go to whenever I feel like doing so!

    I guess I will have to read the book before going to see the movie, and be sure to have tissues nearby when I do… Even if I’m not entirely sure my emotional state can handle many heartbreaks like these! Very happy to hear that you loved it as much this time when you were re-reading!

    Fantastic review Jessica! I’ll probably end up tweeting you all caps if I end up sobbing my eyes out with this one, be warned!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #57!!

  24. Michele from A Belle's Tales

    Hold me, Jessica. Hold me now. *sniffles* I loved this book, I bawl at the movie trailer, and now your review has my eyes doing the Niagara Falls thing. After this gorgeous review (you captured her family so perfectly), I am willing to risk dehydration and do a re-read. Those quotes… I’m broken! Broken! Really gorgeous review, my friend. Pass me the tissues, won’t you?
    Michele recently posted…Early Review: Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan