Gayle Forman’s If I Stay follows 17 year old Mia for 24 hours as she watches her loved ones deal with a tragic accident from outside her body. The novel begins with a car accident, and Mia discovers that her parents were killed instantly. She doesn’t know what happened to her little brother, and she realizes that she is no longer in her body when she finds her body lying in a pool of blood. She travels with her body in an ambulance to a hospital and watches as the staff fight to keep her alive. The book goes back and forth between the present and memories of Mia’s past with her family, her best friend, and her boyfriend. We learn that she comes from a musical family, although she prefers the cello while her parents are into punk rock. Her boyfriend’s music style leans more toward that of her parents, but the two work because of their shared passion for music. Mia hopes to attend Juilliard. but now wonders if it is worth staying alive without her parents. While the book has been compared to The Lovely Bones, the reader must watch Mia consider life or death, unlike Susie Salmon who had that decision made for her.
Lots of buzz built up around this book, especially when Catherine Hardwicke was quickly hired to direct a movie version once it came out that she would not be continuing with the Twilight saga. I truly enjoyed If I Stay, although I am hesitant to say it is worthy of all of the buzz. I do think a lot of that feeling is because I kept seeing the comparisons to The Lovely Bones, which is one of my top 3 favorite books, so my expectations were probably too high. I think if I had heard about the book with all the buzz minus TLB comparisons, I would have been less disappointed.
I came to love Mia; she is a unique character. She is serious, and prefers her instrument and the music style suitable to a cello, but Forman avoided making her into a music-nerd stereotype. One understands how Adam fell in love with her despite their surface differences. I thought the friendship between Mia and Kim was so honest and deep and true. I also loved Mia’s family and their relationships, and can understand why Mia would want to consider not returning to life without them. I would suggest having a tissue or 2 close by when you read it.
4 and 1/2 stars
This completes my 2009 YA Lit Challenge!