Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Black Swan
Buy This Book: Amazon / Book Depository
The last thing Mia remembers is the music.
After the accident, she can still hear it. And she can see her damaged body being taken from the wreck of her parents' car - even though she can't feel a thing.
All she can do is watch as doctors rush to save her life, as her friends and relatives gather outside her room, as the boy she loves struggles to be near her.
As the next twenty-four hours unfold, Mia must come to terms with what came before the crash - and what could come after. And she knows she must make the most difficult choice of all.
If she stays...
I usually start my reviews off straight away, but first I want to discuss the covers for this book. There are soooooo many of them, and yet I kind of hate them all:
I first read If I Stay way back in 2009, before there was a huge hype surrounding it and a movie being released. This is important for me to mention, well, at least I think so. I don't know what my experience with If I Stay would have been like if I had gone into after hearing all the hype, seeing the glowing reviews and getting my expectations sky-rocketed. As it happened, I bought it for just £1 in Sainsbury's and had 0 expectations, thinking it would probably be terrible. But, for £1, I wouldn't exactly be crying about it if it was. It wasn't. But I did end up crying, a lot.
I know that If I Stay is one of those books that divides people. I have seen glowing 5/5 star reviews for it, and scathing 1/5 reviews. I fall into the glowing review category. If I Stay surprised me so much the first time I read it. I wasn't expecting it to make me feel all the feels, but it did. I start crying from about the 26 page mark and many moments after that, right up until that final page. It's a book that's devastating and heartbreaking, yet it's a book that also makes you happy, hopeful and thankful.
If I Stay, if you hadn't already guessed from the title or the blurb, is about Mia and the decision she needs to make. After a car accident changes her family forever, she watches on as her body is taken to the hospital. Listens in as her family rally around her and hope and pray she wakes up. She knows the decision to stay is up to her, she just doesn't know what she wants to do yet. Can she stay, despite everything that's happened? Or is it all too much?
The accident takes place almost immediately, it's gasp-worthy in it's suddenness and horrifying in how brutally realistic it is. Gayle Forman, in those few pages before the accident, had already made me come to care for this family. I felt devastated by it almost immediately, but Forman isn't done with you yet. This story involves a lot of flashbacks, as Mia looks back on key moments in her life. As she remembers her family and everything they have done for her. As she remembers her relationship with Adam, how they got together, how it's progressed and how it all seems to be falling apart.
There is a romance in this, which is obviously already well established at the beginning of the book. Through flashbacks, we get to see Mia and Adam date, fall in love and go through the hardships all couples face. As they get older, their lives are taking them in very different directions. Their shared love of music is actually what pulls them apart, Adam is in a band as a lead guitarist and singer. Mia is a cellist, who wants to get into Julliard and move to New York. I loved their relationship because it's the most realistic I have seen in a YA novel in a long time. It's not all sunshine and rainbows, they actually have problems to work through and see that having a long term relationship, especially at such a young age, is actually pretty hard.
This book has never been about the romance to me though. It was always more about love and family, and how much you can bear to deal with. When I first read this book, I hadn't experience a sudden loss of anyone young. The most I had lost was a grandparent when I was very young. Forman was able to make it so easy to imagine what it would be like to be in Mia's shoes. I sat and wondered what I would want to do myself, would I want to wake up, knowing that everything would be different. Would I have the strength to stay? That really broke my heart the first time I read it. This time around, having experience far too many sudden deaths of people far too young, it was ten times more heartbreaking. It all felt a lot more real. I cried so much I went through a whole pack of tissues.
Mia's family is what I loved most about this book. Her parents are actually the coolest parents you could ask for, to the point where they seem too perfect. They joke with their children and treat them as friends, as well as their children. They have great taste in music, are supportive and are hilariously funny. Too perfect, right? Wrong. I know some 1/5 review complained that the family wasn't realistic, but they are so wrong. I don't have that perfect family, but I know someone who does. Her family is just like the one in this book, reading it reminded me so much of days spent round her house, watching her, her brother and sister, and her parents all joke around with each other. Her parents and her little brother were coolest people you could meet in fiction. It's nice to have a novel where parents are so important to the character, and not just conveniently absent for the majority of it.
It could be a bit too cheesy at times, but this packs a big emotional punch. I love any book that can make me sob and sob and sob. This book comes to make me love and care for characters, so much that they seem real. I find it utterly heartbreaking and totally uplifting all at the same time. It works so well to show just how suddenly life can change, and how hard it can be to continue on after that. I thought it was true to life in every aspect, from the accident, to Mia's thought process, to her relationship troubles with Adam. Gayle Forman is a very talented lady, and also a very cruel one.