Seventeen-year-old Mia has her entire life ahead of her. She’s a shoo-in for the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, and the biggest decision she has to make is whether to move to New York on her own or stay in Oregon with her boyfriend Adam. That decision seems trite in comparison to the one she faces after a deadly car crash changes the course of her life forever.
If I Stay is a page-turner, save the moments when reflection is required. In a fairly slim volume, author Gayle Forman manages to create a believable and virtually blameless character in Mia. Readers will find themselves drawn to empathize with Mia and nearly all of the other characters at some point.
Mia contemplates her love for the cello, her boyfriend Adam and her best friend Kim. She also considers what life will be like having lost so much. Life and death are the two choices presented to Mia, but the first-person account offers no insight into who is presenting that decision. Religion, faith and pre-conceived notions about life after death play no role in this bare-bones depiction of the psychological inner-workings of one young woman.
Soon to be a film, If I Stay calls to mind Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, but readers must cope with the tragic events in the novel without having the satisfaction of a specific character to blame. Teen readers will be thrilled, horrified, saddened and excited by the subject matter. The implications of Mia’s choice—and eventual decision—will resonate with readers of all ages. Copyright 2009 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2009 Fall
A car accident leaves seventeen-year-old Mia in a coma, her parents and brother dead. She hovers between life and death, watching surgeons bustle around her comatose body. The story moves easily between the present vigil and Mia's past as she considers the unbearable pain of living with so much loss. The stakes are poignantly conveyed through Mia's vivid memories. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #4
What begins as the gift of a rare snow day in Portland, Oregon, turns suddenly into nightmare. Seventeen-year-old Mia drives off with her family on the unexpected holiday. A sudden explosion of metal, and Mia is looking at her dead parents sprawled on the asphalt, her little brother nowhere to be found. An ambulance arrives to take Mia's body, bristling with tubes, to a trauma unit, and incorporeal Mia rides along. Distant kin to the dead narrators of The Lovely Bones et al., Mia hovers somewhere between life and death, watching surgeons bustle around her comatose body. An empathetic nurse clues Mia in that "she's running the show" -- that the choice to live or die belongs to Mia. Forman's one-sitting page-turner moves easily between the present vigil and Mia's past as she considers the ultimate choice. A talented classical cellist, Mia is deeply in love with punk-rock singer Adam, who has more in common musically with Mia's formerly punk, effortlessly cool parents. As Mia holds out for Adam's arrival at the hospital and considers the unbearable pain of living with so much loss, her best friend Kim reminds her that she does have family -- all the relatives and friends out there pulling for her. Apart from a heavy-handed clunk or two ("I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard"), the stakes are poignantly conveyed through Mia's vivid memories of a rich, rewarding life. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2009 April #1
When snow cancels school, Mia and her family pile into their beat-up station wagon for a drive. Unlike most 17-year-olds, Mia is secretly enjoying hanging out with her quirky family until an oncoming driver shatters their lives, leaving the gravely injured Mia with the ultimate decision: Should she stay or go? As a spirit-like observer, Mia narrates the next 24 hours, describing how her medical team, friends, boyfriend and extended family care for her each in their own way. Woven into her real-time observations are powerful memories that organically introduce Mia's passion for classical music, her relationship with her boyfriend and her bond with her parents and brother. These memories reinforce the magnitude of Mia's decision and provide weight to both sides of her dilemma. Forman excels at inserting tiny but powerful details throughout, including the realistic sounds, smells and vocabulary of a hospital, which will draw readers into this masterful text and undoubtedly tug at even the toughest of heartstrings. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 March #1
The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state ("Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this"), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live. Via Mia's thoughts and flashbacks, Forman (Sisters in Sanity) expertly explores the teenager's life, her passion for classical music and her strong relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, Adam. Mia's singular perspective (which will recall Alice Sebold's adult novel, The Lovely Bones) also allows for powerful portraits of her friends and family as they cope: "Please don't die. If you die, there's going to be one of those cheesy Princess Diana memorials at school," prays Mia's friend Kim. "I know you'd hate that kind of thing." Intensely moving, the novel will force readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that make them worth living. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)[Page 64]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Gr 9 Up--Forman creates a cast of captivating characters and pulls readers into a compelling story that will cause them to laugh, cry, and question the boundaries of family and love. While out on a drive with her family, 17-year-old Mia is suddenly separated from her body and forced to watch the aftermath of the accident that kills her parents and gravely injures her and her younger brother. Far from supernatural, this shift in perspective will be readily accepted by readers as Mia reminisces about significant events and people in her life while her body lies in a coma. Alternating between the past and the present, she reveals the details and complexities of her relationships with family and friends, including the unlikely romance with her punk-rock boyfriend, Adam. An accomplished musician herself, Mia is torn between pursuing her love for music at Julliard and a future with Adam in Oregon. However, she must first choose between fighting to survive and giving in to the resulting sadness and despair over all she has lost. Readers will find themselves engrossed in Mia's struggles and will race to the satisfying yet realistic conclusion. Teens will identify with Mia's honest discussion of her own insecurities and doubts. Both brutal and beautiful, this thought-provoking story will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.--Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD[Page 106]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.