If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I StayTitle/Author: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Publisher/Year: Speak (imprint of Penguin) 2009
Where I Got It: Borders–with the 40% off coupon!
Why I read it: It had been on my TBR list but after hanging out with Melanie and having her highly recommend it, I decided to bump it up.
Rating: 5 stars. I read it in 4 hours because I couldn’t will myself to put it down. Enough said.

Live can change in a moment–a single moment and everything that you once knew as your life has vanished and is replaced by a new reality. Mia, a high school senior and talented cellist, finds herself in one these moments and faces an impossible choice between leaving it all behind or forging a new life out of the pieces that are left behind. It’s either life or death. Literally.

WOW. I finished this book feeling a myriad of emotions. My boyfriend looked over to ask me how it was as he heard me close the book, in the signature way I do upon finishing a book, and saw me sitting there with tears streaming down my face. He started to ask about it and I just started mumbling incoherent things and slammed the book on the table and kept saying, “Wow. Just wow” and “I’m never going to freaking be able to wait until April to get my hands on the next book.” This book was pretty powerful for me.

I need to first point out that if you see the paperback copy of this book and notice that there is a blurb by USA Today saying “Will appeal to fans of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight”—make sure you ignore this. Apparently the person who wrote the blurb and I disagree immensely. Just saying. Yes, there is a romantic element to this book, but I did not see any sparkly vampires or Taylor Lautner-esque werewolves roaming the pages of this book. Aside from the romantic aspect, which is a part of many books, I could not really grasp that correlation. So please, I beg you to listen to ME and not USA Today. While we are on the topic of the romantic element, it is a sweet romance that isn’t annoying or over the top. I loved their relationship. It makes you love “love” and appreciate it in the rawest of moments.

If I Stay is emotionally gripping and will genuinely move you. I think that it is realistic nature of the tragedy that gets to you because we’ve all either experienced something similar or have seen it on the news. It’s one of those truly tragic stories that you know could happen to you–and that is frightening. I’m such a worrier and think about death too much anyways because of grief that I have experienced in my own life so this one hit me hard. Nobody wants to start thinking about losing loved ones but this book certainly elicits strong enough emotions to carry over into that kind of thinking. It felt authentic and real rather than contrived like the author was playing puppeteer to your heartstrings.

Gayle Forman wasted NO time in delivering the blow. It took me off guard like any tragedy does in real life–one moment life is just rolling on and BAM. When everything happened I said, outloud, “Well, SHIT.” I don’t know if I said it to my boyfriend or just to myself outloud but I couldn’t keep it in but from that moment until I finished this book four hours later, I felt completely invested in the life of Mia and her family. I felt like I was a part of this tragedy and being in Mia’s head was no easier. I kept asking myself what I would do. I couldn’t come up with a clear answer even having dealt with situations were I had to keep on trucking through life without someone.

I thought Forman did an excellent job balancing the present with memories from the past and learning more about her family, friends and Adam made it all the harder. I felt the weight and the importance of Mia’s decision. I love when an author makes me feel so connected to characters! This isn’t a book where things are happening over a span of time. It’s kind of slow-moving but this makes sense and I never found myself bored at all despite the fact that the present takes place in a span of 24 hours. I won’t say much about the ending but I’m going to cry, scream and kick to get my hands on an ARC of the next book so I don’t have to wait until April 2011. There is just no way I can do that.

My final thought: Gayle Forman has created an emotionally stirring novel that will leave you contemplating life, love and those moments that matter. There is much beauty alongside the sadness of loss and the complexity of grief; the glimmer of hope and beauty is what keeps you from having a complete mental breakdown while reading this book. It’s that real. If you are an emotional person like myself or have experienced loss, you’ll need to break out the box of tissues. Make sure it’s the extra soft kind.

Discussion: For those of you who have read it, what would you choose?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Great review! I LOVED this book, and it's definitely made my top reads this year/ my whole life. I agreed with a lot of what you had to say! (Oh yah, and if nothing else works, there are ARC tour sites (Star Book Tours, I think in particular) that have this book available to pass along and read. 🙂 )

  2. I love this book so so much. Gayle Forman is one of those authors who could write a tech manual or a grocery list and I'd still buy it. I really want Where She Went, too, but I'm going to wait until it comes out. I almost signed up for a tour, but I know that I'm going to buy this anyway so I'd rather get it on my own time and only pay for it once. The wait does suck, though.

  3. What a lovely review! I need to read this, I've been hearing so much about it and see it all the time.

  4. JessiKay89 says:

    This is definitely getting bumped up on my TBR list! Great review!

  5. Christina/Book Addict says:

    Great review! I LOVED this novel as well and I cannot wait for the sequel. I was very invested in the character's as well. My co-worker is Skyping with Gayle Forman in a few weeks. Can't wait!

  6. Yea, what a choice. It's hard to put myself in that situation. I've been in the situation where I begged for a "miracle" and wanted a loved one to "choose," if possible. I guess, on the other hand, I believe in "God's will" — so maybe I'd let him decide. Great book. Great review.

  7. novelwhore says:

    Ok you've convinced me – I saw the book trailer for IF I STAY and liked it, but wasn't rushing out to pick it up until NOW! Thanks for the motivation and I can't wait to read it, though I might save it until I'm in need of a good solid cry/emotional rollercoaster…

  8. I love this book and had the hugest crush on Adam! I read in in an hour or two and sobbed my way through it. The writing was beautiful (oh when Grandpa was talking to hear I totally lost it). I'm looking forward to the sequel.
    Great review!

  9. I love this book and had the hugest crush on Adam! I read in in an hour or two and sobbed my way through it. The writing was beautiful (oh when Grandpa was talking to hear I totally lost it). I'm looking forward to the sequel.
    Great review!

  10. Jessica (Firefly Book Loft) says:

    I was JUST discussing with my husband yesterday about EVERY new YA book being described as "if you loved Twilight you'll love this", even when, as you said, they have nothing to do with each other.
    That has realllly started to bug me.

    Awesome review though. I've been wanting to read this and it's slowly making it's way up my TBR list. Now I really can't wait.

  11. miss cindy :) says:

    Yes, this book is fantastic. Just wow. Great review 🙂

  12. I've heard so many good things about this book ! And it's a great review ! I've bought this book a few weeks ago I've to read it soon ^^

  13. Wonderful review. Have been dying to read this forever, but I've been fearing it's a sobfest. And yup, you just confirmed it!

    Side note: Did you know this is going to be a movie with Dakota Fanning?

  14. Library Gal says:

    Beautifully written review. I loved this book. Loved doesn't even seem like a strong enough word to describe how I feel about it. As for my choice, I don't know if I could be as strong and brave as Mia….

  15. Wow, what a powerful review! I bought this book a while back and (story of my life) still haven't read it. I think that I will have to set aside a Saturday or Sunday where I can read the entire book from start to finish, because I don't do well with sad stories. I'm kind of a hot mess, actually, so I will need to be in the privacy of my own home to let the tears flow.

  16. I KNOW! I was like balling on page 20, or whenever It happened. And yes, I would say to totally ignore that blurb too. In fact, I generally ignore all blurbs SMeyer writes because… uh… well…they don't do justice to the story? Haha. Glad you found this as powerful as I did and that we're both eagerly awaiting the next book. 🙂

  17. I haven't read If I Stay yet, but I want to! I hate when the blurbs on a book are way off base. Though I prefer being pleasantly surprised to disappointed!

  18. Imel Cullen says:

    this is one of my favorite YA… when I was read this book, I cry…. it’s so sad but I like the ending in book 2 (where she went)

  19. Now that I’ve read it, I’m here to actually read the review!

    The swoon factor for this book was high, and I can only imagine the next one, because it’s going to be from Willem’s point of view, and holy crap he’s incredibly hot. I WANT ONE, even though I know that’s a bad choice, but Dutch and tall and knows Shakespeare and gorgeous. I CAN HAS?

    Oh my goodness, that scene you photographed. That was AMAZING. Also, if he isn’t a good guy who really connected with her, then he’s an amazing judge of character, because he makes some intellectual leaps.

    Oh man, the themes of saying yes to life. I love books about that, because I need so much encouragement to do that. I am so about risk avoidance, and I miss out on a lot of epic experiences as a result.


  20. Johnna Smarse says:

    The movie was good too


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