If I Stay is a short young adult novel by Gayle Forman.
17 year old cellist Mia is unsure what to do in life; whether going to an exclusive music college is the right thing for her instead of staying with her long term boyfriend Adam. She is torn between her first love, music, and her first boyfriend. A car crash changes everything. With her parents dead and her younger brother in critical condition, Mia finds herself in an out-of-body experience, stuck in an ethereal realm where she can see her own body in a coma at hospital whilst she makes a decision: should she stay or go?
The novel is short and the plot doesn’t really expand beyond the basic summary. It is a story that is mainly driven by characters and is told largely through flashbacks detailing Mia’s life. The characters themselves are quite good except for Mia. Whilst she didn’t annoy me like most YA novel protagonists, she was a bit too bland though it was refreshing to see a teenager with a good relationship with her parents.
The character Adam is a bit of a bad-boy heartthrob, as is typical for a young adult book to contain. He seemed a bit too good to be true, though one can overlook this. One thing I could not overlook, however, was a particularly cheesy memory where Adam and Mia explore each other’s bodies as though they were playing musical instruments. That’s not a euphemism either; Mia actually strokes him as though she was playing her cello. I didn’t care for this; it made me cringe and slightly annoyed me as all I could think throughout reading it was: “what teenagers would actually do this?”
I didn’t know what this book was about before I read it, other than it being ‘really sad’, and apparently there was a lot of hype that surrounded this book when it was released. I’m rather glad I didn’t have any expectations of this book beforehand as I would have felt greatly underwhelmed. The book was too short for me to start feeling emotionally attached to Mia, and as stated before, she didn’t have much of a personality so I didn’t find myself caring whether she decided to live or die.
Though the premise of the story is sad, it’s not overly depressing and there is an element of hope within. Another theme of the novel is choice; though Mia’s body is in a coma it is her choice ultimately whether to stay or go on. That at any moment we can chose to change our lives, for better or worse.
Overall I found this book slightly below average. Some of the characters (especially the parents) were compelling, whilst others like Mia fell flat. The ending also felt very rushed, which was annoying as the entire book builds up to the climax of Mia’s decision and the finale just didn’t live up to its potential. I would say this is a book to read whilst on the toilet: useful for a distraction, but don’t expect it to change your life.
Review by by Alex Bevan