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…
First published: 2009
I’ve been reading about Gayle Forman ever since I started blogging, because she seems to be quite the favourite among book bloggers. So I got curious and figured I should find out what all the fuss is about. I ordered If I Stay a while back, I think because the film had just come out and it seemed like the most interesting premise (although I’ve had my eye on Just One Day for a while as well).
However, somehow, I completely read the blurb wrong, or perhaps just not carefully enough, because it was only when I picked up the book when I was about to start reading it that I realised what this story is really about. How I managed to do that, I have no idea. But once that realisation hit me, I kind of had this moment of “oooh, shit, this gonna be sad”. And, man, was it sad.
Mia is in a car crash together with her parents and her little brother and the story follows her in the twenty-four hours that follow the crash. She has this out-of-body experience as she watches what happens to her and her family and sees herself (or, her body) fighting for her life. And then there’s that horrible question: should she stay or should she go?
The story alternated between those moments after the crash, with Mia seeing what had happened to everyone and having to deal with that, and flashbacks of what happened before. This way we get to know Mia’s family, and her boyfriend Adam. They’re such a wonderful family, and we get the full story of Mia’s parents’ life before the children and how it all developed after that. That also meant getting quite attached to these characters, though, which was really quite painful given the situation.
I loved the story of Mia and Adam, since they’re two very different people, yet they were pretty perfect together. There was one cringeworthy scene in Mia’s bedroom, but that was only one scene. Adam after the crash is completely heartbreaking because he is not allowed to go in and see Mia and you just see him slowly crumbling. Luckily, he’s got Mia’s best friend Kim to support him. Kim was the only character I didn’t really like. It’s not that I disliked her, I just didn’t really had any kind of connection with her. I would’ve liked to see a bit more of Mia’s friendship with her or just get to know her as a person. She didn’t really feel like a fully fleshed out character to me.
I did really like Gayle Forman’s writing style because it made the story feel quite natural. It’s straighforward and easy going, and I couldn’t stop reading because of that. I’d finished the novel before I knew it. That could also be partly due to the suspense, though. I really wanted to know how the story would end because I honestly did not know what decision Mia was going to make. I had my suspicions, but I wasn’t sure even a tiny bit.
My only real problem with the story is how incredibly sad it made me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m down for a sob story every now and then (The Fault in Our Stars, anyone? The Book Thief?), but this felt like one step further than that. That doesn’t really have a lot to do with the story as much as it does with me, but it did result in my rating being a little bit lower. The story really affected my mood and was a little bit too heartbreaking for me. It’s all so sad, even the flashbacks, because you know what’s coming.
Anyway, if you’re up for a really sad (but well-written and moving) story, I’d definitely recommend giving If I Stay a try. Be prepared to be really sad, though.