If I Stay

If I Stay

by Gayle Forman


Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.
If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

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Book #1 in Series

I’ve had a rocky relationship with this book.

The truth is that I loved to pieces the concept  behind it and even now, years after, when I think about it I get all teary-eyed.
I wonder what would keep me alive, what/whom would call for me from this life I have, what are those things I wouldn’t be able to live without or the ones that are really worth living for?

“I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard.”

“If I Stay” is overall an emotional story that might soak you in all different kinds of feelings. It is deep, it is sad, but it also has a softer side that might make you smile, might give you hope. With the movie approaching I need to re-read it, because those few tiny minutes in the trailer managed to make me feel all that I ever wanted to feel while reading the book, which would have been so much greater if I didn’t feel as detached form the main character as I was.

Back then I loved the second book better, but who knows, maybe this time around I will focus on different elements and maybe I will love it with all my heart… or so I hope.

The old review:

Though I did love this book (you can notice that from the rating too) there were some things that bothered me a bit, so I had to take down one shiny star from the rating.

You see, I didn’t like Mia.
…And if I didn’t lose you at this statement you might also find my reasons below.

I know that you all did, but I just couldn’t relate to her, I didn’t feel her pain.
You might think (by looking at my rating) that “If I Stay” is one of my favourites, but the truth is that I liked it for many reasons, not even one being Mia or being related to her.

I should probably read this book again to remember it better, but I know that I was expecting something more … heartbreaking and it was never there.
Still, there are some scenes that I loved.. One of them is the moment when her grandparents came to see her, holding hands. I could picture them there, heartbroken and they moved my heart the way Mia never did – when I think about this book, this is the first thing I remember; and in Mia’s place I would’ve come back to life if only for them alone.
The other scene is the one when Adam comes to her and make his promises. Oh, I loved Adam and I loved Mia’s friend (I don’t remember her name now, even though she was mentioned in Where She Went too), I loved the way they tried so hard to give her a reason to come back to them.

if-i-stay-quoteSo, as I said, I found Mia to be a bit annoying and selfish, and her story didn’t impress me that much ..
Back to the beginning, what did she have to lose if she stayed alive?

Her family, yes.. but it wasn’t like she was going to live happily ever after with them if she died, right?
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that losing your family it’s the worst thing that might happen to you, but she just couldn’t have done anything to change it. They were long gone and they probably would have wanted her to stay alive, to live the life they couldn’t anymore.

What did she have to win if she stayed alive?
A great best friend, some amazingly loving grandparents (I just loved them from the bottom of my heart), a great boyfriend that would do anything for her (in fact everything), her dreams awaiting for her to make them come true, and the most important: life.

So what was there to choose after all?
Nothing, really. (Not to mention the fact that she never felt like she belonged to that family – as she mentioned in the book more than once, go figure)

Another thing that didn’t get me the way I wanted was the accident and the moment she realised that her family was gone and for some reason she was not. I expected some more drama, more screaming, more heart-break. I wanted to feel her pain, her desperation, and I am not sure if she was in shock really, but she was a bit detached too. So I just didn’t.

“If you stay, I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll quit the band, go with you to New York. But if you need me to go away, I’ll do that, too. Maybe coming back to your old life would just be too painful, maybe it’d be easier for you to erase us. And that would suck, but I’d do it. I can lose you like that if I don’t lose you today. I’ll let you go. If you stay.”

– Adam

Still, there is a lot of beauty in this book.
… In the wonderful memories Mia keeps, the wonderful family relationships that make the pain even stronger, in the awesome friendships and all that love radiating through the pages.
This is one of those stories that could haunt you long after turning the last page, it is one of those books that you will forever remember, hold dear to your heart. It might make you smile and cry, it might make you wonder, it might make you fall in love.

Don’t fight it.
Don’t run from it..

Additional notes (post re-reading):

I am not much for re-reading (time is precious, you know?), but every now and then I find a story that is worth spending a lot more time with. This one really touched my heart once again and I will probably keep it close to read it again in the future.

The experience was similar to the first time around – still loved the story to pieces, still felt detached from Mia. But the truth is that this book is exceptional and it touched me in a way few books are able to.

Mia as a character is a bit hard to love. She is very insecure, and all her insecurities made her seem quite selfish, hard on the others and herself, and maybe even a bit childish. I did understand from her memories why all the people around her loved her, supported her, put up with her moods, but it was still hard sometimes to relate to her, to connect with her words and the lines of her thoughts.

I liked how different she was from Kim, her best friend, and most of all I liked the family dynamics. There was this freshness, this beauty in their interactions, there was much love between them and in the name of that love my heart was breaking for all that happened in the book.

Re-reading this story felt actually like reading it for the first time, because I knew how the story ended, yes, but I deeply enjoyed each page until then. I am still not a big fan of Mia as you can see (though all her flaws made her seem more real somehow), but I was still emotionally invested in her journey, I was still touched by her memories, I was still hurt by all that she would have lost regardless of her final choice.

It’s a magical thing to make your readers love a book even though they dislike the main character. It says a lot about the writing style, about the characters together, about the story itself. And this one shines, it really does. Maybe it says also a lot about how touched I am by sad moments, by tragical situations. But the truth is that this story has a place in my heart. It always will.

Though Mia seemed to be quite emotions-less at times, or at least that’s how I perceived her, the story she tells is quite the opposite. It radiates emotion. There are tiny gestures: like the holding hands of her grandparents, the whispers of a nurse, the pain of all her loved ones and family, the raw words spoken by her grandparent, the grief of Adam (not only for her, but for her family too) and the sacrifice he was ready to make for her. All these made my heart squeeze and at times they left me with tears in my eyes and a stone of an ache on my heart.


A book worth re-reading indeed. If you didn’t read it, do so.
I am eager for the movie now, hopefully it will express these emotions in a realistic and touching manner, because that’s what i like the most about this story, the emotional side of it.

I will leave the rating untouched, for the same reasons as before, though it might be worth more, it’s true. Still, I did love the second book better, it was twice as emotional, it broke my heart so many times and I recommend it just as much because the pain -trust me- is well worth it.

Happy midnight reading!

ro Note: The Romanian version of the review can be found here.

“If I Stay” – Movie

Sneak Peek:

Movie Trailer:

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4 responses to “If I Stay”

  1. Vera says:

    Oh, I loved your review. You have a way of writing that is simply divine! Even if you didn’t like Mia, I adored what you had to say about this book. She isn’t my favorite character in the book either, it’s Adam, and perhaps Kim (mia’s best friend) too. But she is a big part of it all, and, for her, at the time having to question if she should stay… I think it has a lot do to with witnessing the accident and the shock and seeing the people she loves the most die.. but obviously, everyone has their way of dealing with problems differently. 🙂 Love your site!

    • Ari says:

      Thank you. Are those Adam and Mia from the movie on your avatar? ^_^
      I am struggling to put together a few more words about the re-reading experience. It will be harder with the next book because I loved it so very much. But this one was great too (you are right Adam and Kim are the best), and together these books make for an awesome story (with the good and the ‘not so much’). There’s a lot to love about them.

      • Vera says:

        Yeah, it’s them! 🙂 I have a page dedicated to the movie. BUT I didn’t stumble upon your blog because I was looking at If I Stay related news. I found it the other day and decided to see if you had any reviews up on gayle forman books and voilá! We do really have (almost) the same taste in books! 🙂 btw, have you seen the IIS poster?

        • Ari says:

          I didn’t see it, in fact I checked for it now that you mentioned it, but there is so much fan-made art out there I couldn’t find any official stuff.
          The actors are nothing like I imagined (and I am not sure if they are mature enough looking for the next movie) but they seem to have done a great job based on the trailer alone. I really hope for the movie to be just as great as a whole 🙂

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