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If I Stay


If I Stay

When 17-year-old Mia wakes up on a snowy morning, her family celebrates their unexpected holiday with chocolate chip pancakes. As her mother, father and little brother Teddy plan what to do with their time off from work and school, Mia looks in the newspaper for news about her boyfriend Adam's band. She is planning to go to their concert that night, but she also wants to practice her cello with a pianist. Mia is a passionate and gifted cellist who is fairly confident that her recent audition has gained her an acceptance from Juilliard, based on comments from one of the judges. But today, with her cello at school and unavailable, she has some time on her hands.

Mia's family decides to go for a ride. They can visit old family friends, stop by an enormous bookstore, and then swing by to eat dinner with Mia's grandparents. In the car, each family member battles for his or her favorite music to play on the stereo. Their tastes reflect their personalities, with mom requesting NPR, bow-tied dad wanting Frank Sinatra, and Teddy asking for SpongeBob. Mia, as always, wants to listen to the classical music station. Beethoven's Cello Sonata No. 3 is playing when Mia closes her eyes --- and her life is abruptly and forever changed.

The car is decimated after the accident, but the radio continues to play Beethoven. At first Mia is reassured and decides everything will be okay. After all, she's standing by the vehicle, hearing the music. But then she sees her father. He is dead. Next, she finds her mother, who has also died in the collision. Now Mia is desperate to find her little brother. She spies a hand in a ditch and runs toward it, calling his name. When she reaches the person in the ditch, she realizes she is looking at her own mangled, bleeding body.

As Mia reels in disbelief, wondering if she is actually dead, the paramedics arrive on the scene. She watches them attend to her body, frantically performing emergency medical care, and then transporting her speedily to the emergency room. There, she hears a paramedic report that her parents are dead, but her brother is also being rushed to the ER. Eventually, Mia follows her body as it is transported to an intensive care unit in a big city hospital, all the while reflecting on her first date with Adam and how their musical passions are completely different and yet unite them.

Mia --- the one lying in a coma in an ICU bed --- is in serious condition, with a collapsed lung, ruptured spleen, internal bleeding, and damage to her brain. As the doctors work to repair her shattered body, the conscious Mia reminisces about her life and watches her grandparents and other relatives visit her. Mia learns further devastating news about the consequences of the car accident. She also realizes that she has a pivotal decision to make --- her own life or death choice. With so many overwhelming tragedies and tremendous setbacks, her life will never be remotely the same. Is it worth struggling to re-enter life and live it? Should she stay…or should she go?

IF I STAY, Gayle Forman’s outstanding debut novel, is an emotionally gripping story. As readers follow Mia's life after the accident, we also learn via plentiful flashbacks about her life before tragedy struck. Her colorful, vibrant family members are recalled so vividly that they could step off the page --- and break our hearts. Her remembrances highlight Mia's romance with her boyfriend and her passion for her music. Readers will find her predicament absorbing, and the book’s climax poignant and satisfying.


Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on October 18, 2011

If I Stay
by Gayle Forman

  • Publication Date: April 2, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
  • ISBN-10: 0525421033
  • ISBN-13: 9780525421030