December 4, 2014 9 Comments

‘IF I STAY’ BOOK BY GAYLE FORMAN. Review of the 2012 best-selling novel about a young girl in a coma. All text © Rissi JC

As I’ve expressed before, reviewing secular fiction is a tough business. It’s more complicated than the Christian fiction that dominated my reading for years so I’m just going to follow suit with my methods of reviewing that and say this: If I Stay was probably the (best) most surprising read of the year for me. The reasons why I recount below. First, for anyone who may be unfamiliar with the material, here’s a little about what the book is about.

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STORY: Mia, a high-school junior has a happy one with her kind-of hippie parents (her dad is a teacher and mom is a travel agent) and her younger brother, Teddy. Right now, she’s never really sure who she is or want to be. But coming from a musical family, one thing Mia is, is a talented classical musician who plays the cello. A talent her family has never experienced until her. Into this life walks a student transfer named Adam who Mia says just “was” when they met; he’s confident in who he is. Like her father, he’s a singer in a band and as his fame and recognition rises, he and Mia spend nearly every waking hour together. Though on this snow day when everything is not as perfect as their two years were, Mia’s life is forever about to change when it’s struck by tragedy.

If I Stay Book, by Gayle Forman

‘IF I STAY,’ BY GAYLE FORMAN #FWarchives #YALit #BookReviews Click To Tweet

Expressing what I think of this novel isn’t going to be easy as I’ve probably already hinted at. For starters, the thing that pops most while reading it, is what a beautifully easy read this turns out to be. To begin with, the book is on the shorter side, and then the prose flows elegantly even as it shifts between Mia’s present and past. The latter is when we get to know who she is with Adam, how he encourages her and makes her feel, the ways he keeps her true to the music she’s passionate about and brings her into her own. The former is the more “agonizing” read as Mia wavers between leaving and staying. The opening is really quite good, pulling us into the story without revealing too much of the main characters past.

Surprisingly I don’t think I cried in the book though I found it a compelling story that kept me flipping pages and I liked all of the characters, a rarity in most books. Mia is an easy to like heroine who has to hold up the story and make it as believable as can be for the emotions to seem genuine. Adam too is a wonderful guy that pushes against stereotypes and I respected that he loved Mia so very much. Then there is that ending! Like, oh my heavens!

What was that all about? There’s this feeling that lets the reader decide what they want. Fortunately, a sequel is our there (I don’t expect we’re likely to see a film follow-up), and I do plan to read it (sometime!). To be honest though, it’s a book I don’t expect to like as well as If I Stay. There’s just something about this book that I cannot quite put my finger on. It’s both frustrating (asking us to go through all we did with Mia then giving back no solid place to land) and heartbreaking by providing us with a girl who we sincerely care about and root for.

About the Book:

(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you to anyone who makes a purchase through these links. Read the disclosure page for details.)

Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Speak (Penguin)
Source: Purchase
Publication Date: 2012
Find the Review elsewhere: Amazon | Goodreads | WordPress
Shop the Book: Bookshop.org | Goodreads
Series: If I Stay, book 1
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary YA/Teen
Rating: 4 out of 5

Content: There are multiple uses of the f-word (probably 10 or more, several coming in the span on 2-3 pages), other milder profanities like sh*t, h*ll, etc. There’s some sensuality (making out, thoughts of removing clothes) and discussion of losing virginity; frequent medical issues refer to a girl who is embarrassed because she’s naked when medical personal work on her.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.

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  • Shannon December 4, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    If I Stay is one of the best YA books I've read. I keep telling my 14 year old to read it, you'll like it. She finally one day was like fine. Took it and I didn't see her till she finished it pretty much. The book went every where with her. She loved it as much as me! :) I want them to make a Where She Went movie but Chloe is getting pretty big. Can't wait to see her in 5th Wave, another great book

    • Rissi December 4, 2014 at 9:00 PM

      How fun! It's cool when you can convert people to your fangirl favorites, isn't it!? I just got my mom interested in Becky Wade's books, so that's fun. Definitely want to read Where She Went and I hope a movie is made too though I'm not holding my breath – and oh dear! Now I'll have to read The 5th Wave. :)

  • Raquel Z. Duarte December 4, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    I was so disappointed with it that I didn't even finish reading it haha I got about halfway through and was just like 'This isn't catching my interest at all', and let a friend have it. I may go see the movie…not sure. I have a rule to try to read the book before seeing the movie, but since I didn't like the book (and didn't finish it! haha), I may just see the movie. Maybe I'll like it on screen better than on the page.

    • Rissi December 4, 2014 at 9:02 PM

      That's okay, Raquel. I was surprised with how "easy" a read it was for me! I really didn't expect that. If you see the film, hope you enjoy it more than the book. :)

    • Raquel Z. Duarte December 4, 2014 at 9:20 PM

      It was written well. I liked the style, and first-person is my absolute favorite. I also loved that it was based in my hometown/homestate. It wasn't very well represented, though. Maybe that's why I didn't like the book so much! haha

    • Rissi December 4, 2014 at 9:51 PM

      That makes sense. It's probably not fun when a book is set in your home state and you notice things that are so not accurate. Beyond that, I'm glad you did like some things about it (the style) and for once, I totally loved this first person! :)

  • Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net December 14, 2014 at 2:33 AM

    Glad to hear you enjoyed the book, Rissi! This was the first novel I've read from this author (having heard so much about it as well from other book bloggers) and I greatly enjoyed it. Like you I cared for the characters, and I admit I may have gotten misty-eyed at one point (the part when she found out what happened to her younger brother *big sister role kicking in*).

    Are you going to/Did you check out the follow up novel to this book? I'm not sure I will, I don't think my heart can take the drama xD

    • Rissi December 15, 2014 at 8:32 PM

      I did indeed, Lianne. Surprised me a lot. But I really did like it. I felt like the scene when Mia finds out about her brother is more emotional in the film, but then that could just be that I prefer the visual emotions to the written…? I don't know.

      I will read the follow up, yes. Just because the ending of this book wasn't solid. I'm not a fan of needless drama, but… well, I'd like to know how Mia's story ends. :)

  • […] Adam and Mia from If I Stay (Gayle Foreman) | The way Adam falls in love with Mia makes for a swoony and lovely story. In this […]

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