Thursday, February 17, 2011

Review - If I Stay by Gayle Forman (4/5 stars)

If I Stay (Paperback)Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: General Fiction/Death and Dying
Size: 272 pages
Publisher: Speak
Release Date: April 6, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0142415436
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone, possibly follow up book
Source: Audio book from
Rating: 4/5 stars

I heard many wonderful things about this book and it made many people's top books of the year list for last year, so I was excited to listen to it.  I listened to this on audio book and at 5 hrs in length, it is a quick listen.  It was well done and the narrator did an excellent job conveying Mia's emotions throughout.  I have mixed feelings about this book, it was very well done...but at times the characters seemed too perfect to be realistic.  There is supposed to be sequel to this book called Where She Went which is going to be released in April 2011.

Mia survives the car crash that kills her family, but is in a coma.  While in the hospital her, spirit (for lack of a better description), can follow around those she loves within the hospital but can't interact with them.  The book takes place over a day or two and in that time the story alternates between Mia's struggle for life in the hospital and flashbacks to important moments in Mia's life.  Ultimately Mia must decide does she stay and deal with her broken body and the death of her family? Or does she go on to whatever is next?

I will start out by saying this is an emotional book.  So if you don't like books that make you cry then don't read this book.  I personally am not overly fond of books that make me cry, that being said this book also made me laugh at points.  It was a very emotion evoking book that I will definitely think back to many times.  It definitely leaves a lasting impression and makes you think about your life.

There were a lot of things this book that were done very well.  The transitions between the scenes with Mia's current body at the hospital and scenes from Mia's past were very well done.  They never seemed awkward and flowed very nicely.  I also liked that the relationship between the characters.  The characters had their problems, but they always worked things out by discussing what was going on.  The characters were all very mature and acted like mature adults...even the teenagers.  I loved the theme of music throughout the novel and how music and the characters' love for it tied so many things together. 

Mia was a great character and you are pulling for her throughout. The same can be said for all of the characters surrounding her as well.

This leads me to the biggest problem I had with this book.  All the characters were too perfect.  I kept thinking that if everyone in the world acted as mature as the characters in the book did "wow, what a great place this world would be!"  Mia's best friend was always so thoughtful and just did everything perfect.  Mia's boyfriend, is a punk rocker who is more sensitive, caring, understanding, and discerning than just about any person I've ever met.  All of the characters act perfectly to every situation, and it seemed a bit contrived.  Don't get me wrong for the most part it made for a good story, but at points I was rolling my eyes thinking "Oh come on, is that what they would really do in a situation like this?"

Overall this is a great read; it tackles serious issues around life and death and intersperses it with enough occasional humor to make it not too depressing of a read.  That being said this book will make you cry, it is sad and touching at points.  I personally am not big into books like this, so I probably won't read the sequel.  I did like the references to music woven throughout though and it is a sweet and touching read with characters that are innately good.  It should be suitable for all young adult and older readers, the scenes depicting the injuries after the car accident get a bit graphic but other than that it is pretty PG.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:

 If I Stay


  1. Great review. I love books that make me cry, so this was a winner for me. And cry I did. I stayed up until almost 2 AM sobbing in the bathroom so my husband could sleep.
    I agree that the characters were a bit too perfect, but the contrast btw Mia's pretty great life and her present predicament made the book even more emotional.

  2. Alison,

    Thanks for the comment. I definitely agree that Mia's perfect life before hand made the destruction of all that even more poignant. That's a good point to make :-)

    - Karissa