If I Stay by Gayle Forman hit very close to home for me. The story is about an only survivor of a horrific car accident.
Mia – a 17-year old girl is the only survivor in an accident where the rest of her family perished. Now in a coma in hospital, she must decide if she wants to stay (here on Earth) or go with the rest of her family.
The reason this book hit so close to home for me, is that I know a personal tragedy like this – very similar. My uncle (mom’s bro) and his entire family (wife, two kids, and dog) died instantaneously in a car accident when they were hit by a truck. My uncle had skipped a red light. My mom was woken up in the early hours of the morning with the news.
Reading this book brought back all those old memories and feels in a major way, and I was touched in a way I would not otherwise be because of my personal experience.
However, let’s get on to a somewhat objective review of the book, shall we?
Let me start with the positives.
The book is short. I really like that Gayle Forman chose not to drag the story beyond the length it deserves. It’s short, sweet, and delivers an emotional sucker-punch.
The book begins with a bang on the day of the accident. And this tale of the events leading up to the accident and after the accident is magnificently done. The ordinariness of the moments before the accident was really well done, so was Mia’s out-of-body experiences.
I loved how the book goes back and forth between Mia’s stay at the hospital to her idyllic life with her family and boyfriend, her hopes, dreams, and choices. All were beautifully done.
That said, her life seemed a bit too idyllic at times. There is nary a conflict, and what little conflict is there – boyfriend vs career, is done in a very half-hearted way. It’s all just roses and violins (or cellos as in the case with this book) for Mia.
And really that doesn’t sound right. For example, this is what Mia’s teen boyfriend Adam says to her when she comes dressed as sexy Sandy from Greeze for a party.
But the you who you are tonight is the same you I was in love with yesterday, the same you I’ll be in love with tomorrow.
I mean, really? Maybe it’s just me, but that was a wee bit vomit-inducing.
It’s the family scenes where this book shines. I loved Mia’s parents, and their love story was so sweet, and Mia’s relationship with her brother Teddy was also adorable. It’s the teenage romance between Mia and Adam that is so corny.
I thought Mia’s thoughts on death and dying and religion while she was in the hospital were beautiful and poignant. She knows it’s her choice – whether she wants to wake up from the coma and face all her losses, or go on to die. She thinks:
Sleep would be so welcome. A warm blanket of black to erase everything else. Sleep without dreams. I’ve heard people talk about the sleep of the dead. Is that what death would feel like? The nicest, warmest, heaviest never-ending nap? If that’s what it’s like, I wouldn’t mind. If that’s what dying is like, I wouldn’t mind that at all.
Eventually, of course, Mia makes her choice. She decides to wake up, and that marks the end of this story.
This is not really a spoiler for the book, as there is a sequel about Mia’s life after her accident – Where She Went, which if reviews are to believed is even better than this one. Looking forward to it.
Have you read If I Stay and Where She Went? What did you think of these books?
You can also buy a copy of this book from Amazon.