If I Stay

by

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?

My Review

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.

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  • booksatvioletcrush

    Sorry to read about your Uncle, it must have been very hard on your mother.

    I haven’t read the book but have see the movie which was not very good. Seems like in this case the book is better than the movie!

    • Nishita

      @booksatvioletcrush Yeah, it was pretty hard on her at the time. I was just a kid and so don’t remember much of the details.

      I do think the book would have worked better than the movie. It’s a very short and simple book and I can’t imagine making a 2-hour movie out of it.

  • Oh wow, Nishita, what a tragedy about your uncle. I’m so sorry, that sounds really, really hard. I haven’t read this book and am not super eager to — I had a cousin who was in a motorcycle crash and was in a coma for months afterward, so I’m not super pumped to revisit that time in my life.

    (My friend and podcast partner gets hilariously angry every time this title comes up. She says, “I meeeeeean — I’m pretty sure she stays. She stays at the end? I’m pretty sure.” :p)

    • Nishita

      @readingtheend:disqus I wouldn’t recommend it then. There are portions of the book that are quite upsetting especially about how patients can make decisions to go or stay. I really doubt that is the case. Sorry to hear about your cousin, did he/she get better? Months in a coma sounds really rough.

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