Reviewed by Alis Adams
The Ultimate Choice
If I Stay, written by Gayle Foreman (published by the Penguin Group in 2009), is one of the many heart throbs produced by this accomplished author. This novel is young-adult fiction, and is set in a small, contemporary Oregon town outside Portland. If I Stay is written from a first person narrative of the main character, Mia. While in a coma following a ruthless car accident that killed her brother and parents, Mia’s conciseness is able to leave her body and observe the unseen grief of her family members and loved ones. The seventeen-year-old gifted cellist and possible Julliard student, revisits all the important moments in her life while in the hospital. Mia is torn between living in grief or joining her family in death.
Mia, the protagonist, is a high school senior with a gift for playing the cello. Mia is not like most of her peers, she spends a majority of her time trying to perfect her music abilities. She enjoys her relationship with her family, even though she is nothing like them. Her parents are both former rock stars and her brother was born to be on stage. On the other hand, Mia would rather go to the symphony than a rock concert. The car accident puts Mia in a coma, but she decides to keep fighting for her life despite the loss of her family. Mia is an extraordinary character in this novel, and he author does an excellent job of having this character connect with the reader.
The central conflict throughout If I Stay, is whether or not main character is going to choose to live or not. If I Stay beings with Mia and her family enjoying a peaceful breakfast after choosing to stay home from school due to weather. The family decides to drive to visit their relatives in another part of Oregon. This harmless trip results in a lifetime of damage for Mia and her loved ones. That afternoon they are all taken to the hospital. She revisited all of the most important memories throughout the next 24 hours, and makes the crucial decision to just let go or fight for her life. Returning to these memories helps to resolve the conflict, by making Mia realize just how much she has to live for.
Mia says, “Sometimes you make choices in life, and sometimes choices make you” (p. 146), showing that you have the opportunity decide what happens in your life but other times you cannot control your fate. The concept of choice is a universal theme in If I Stay. Even though Mia is physically unconscious, she is able to see the aftermath of the accident in this hospital and think about her future. She is faced with a choice that could change many people’s lives. After seeing how devastated her closest family already is, Mia rethinks her options, proceeding to either live or join her family in death. Some readers may be able to connect with the concept of making difficult choices throughout their lives, which is why choice is such a powerful theme.
I would rate If I Stay four out of five stars, because it is an emotional story that is capable of being heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. The conflict throughout the book touches on very controversial issues that are easily relatable for young adult readers. I would recommend this book to teens who have an interest in reading young-adult fiction, and people who also love a good story about romance. Gayle Forman has written multiple books, which I have yet to read, that seem similar to If I Stay. If you have an interest in novels written by John Green, I would suggest reading this book or others written by this author. If I Stay is a do-not-miss love tragedy that is available at Colony High School’s library.
Forman, Gayle. If I Stay. New York: Penguin Group, 2009. Print.