Title: If I Stay / Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Published by: Dutton Penguin
Genres: Young-Adult Fiction
In-Series/Stand Alone: In-Series, two books
“Just listen,” Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel. I open my eyes wide now. I sit up as much as I can. And I listen. “Stay,” he says.
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.
I love when a book can awaken certain feelings, dreams and fears that you keep hidden away deep inside you. I love when it makes you really sit down and think about life and death, and the whole purpose of your very being. If I Stay did justice to exactly that.
The novel starts with seventeen-year-old Mia, her parents, and her younger brother. Her family is celebrating an unexpected snow day, and decide to spend the day visiting their friends and Mia’s grandparents. We barely have time to fall in love with this quirky, music-loving family before we find Mia describing pieces of her father’s brain on the asphalt after a horrible car crash. Mia doesn’t remember anything about the crash. All she knows is that she’s somehow out of her body watching what happens next. There’s no white light to heaven waiting for her, and she has no idea if her little brother is okay. Mia leads us step-by-step through her journey filled with heart-achingly beautiful flashbacks as she comes to realize that whatever happens next is up to her, and her only. Should she stay and face the pain of reality, or should she go?
This book was beautifully written. Gayle Forman weaves the past and the present together flawlessly, and the more we learn about Mia’s family and her boyfriend, Adam, the more we fall in love with them and root for Mia to stay. If I Stay demonstrates the kind of beauty that can only exist alongside despair and shines all the more for it. It’s filled with happiness and sorrow, laughter and tears, birth and rebirth, love and loss and thus leaves readers with an overwhelming feeling of hope despite the tears and grief they’re bound to feel. Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay, and I’m not going to spoil anything about it because you have to read it to find out what happens!
“Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you.”
“And that’s just it, isn’t it? That’s how we manage to survive the loss. Because love, it never dies, it never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang on to it.”
“Love, it never dies. It never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang on to it. Love can make you immortal.”
“Adam is crying and somewhere inside of me I am crying, too, because I’m feeling things at last. I’m feeling not just the physical pain, but all that I have lost, and it is profound and catastrophic and will leave a crater in me that nothing will ever fill.”
“Life is one big, fat, gigantic, stinking mess. That’s the beauty of it.”
*Note: If I Stay was adapted into a film in 2014, starring Chloë Grace Moretz as Mia. Watch the trailer here:
*DISCLAIMER* If you have not read this book yet, I’d really recommend not going through the comments section in case there’s a spoiler. You can always come back here later to discuss after you’ve read the book! (Or contact me if you want to talk about it beforehand)