If I Stay By Gayle Forman book review

Review of If I Stay By Gayle Forman - michalah Francis

I’m not sure where to begin with this novel, so much happens, so much is said and so much is left unsaid that I found myself having to put the novel down and walk away from it because what I was reading felt too real.

I’m finding it hard to discuss If I Stay without discussing plot and character and giving away spoilers. But basically the novel is about an out of body experience that young Mia has after her and her family are involved in a car accident leaving her in the ICU and her family in a critical condition. The novel is a collection of memories that Mia recalls while her out-of-body-ghost-self sees her family and friends visiting her body in the hospital. For those who enjoy post-modern novels and stream of consciousness narrations you will enjoy If I Stay because that’s how the story is told. A family or relative says something or does something and it sparks a memory in Mia which she then relives with the reader.

Simply put. It is beautiful.

If I Stay really affected me because of various things. The reader is with Mia during the entire car accident. You are there for the crash, the disorientation she experiences, the arrival of the ambulance. Myself and my family were in a car-totalling accident a few years ago, nothing fatal, but we spent months recovering both physically and mentally from the experience. And to have to read that happen to Mia took me right back to the moment of my own car accident.

quoteI was also affected by If I Stay in a profound way because I recently experienced the loss of one of my friends and it was so unexpected that a lot of us had a tough time coming to terms with what had happened. If I Stay walks you through the unexpectedness of death, the brevity of our existence, and the value you place, and don’t place, on everything in life.

This book made me laugh, cry and smile all within the span of 212 pages.

After taking me on an emotional rollercoaster, the novel then tore me up. For the first time, I did something with this novel that I never, ever do, I read “The Story behind the Story” and the “Acknowledgements” section at the end. I never do this. Personally, I buy books for the plot and the characters and the love and the hate, I’m not always interested in what inspired the author or the process the author went through to get the book published. I know this sounds odd, but I always feel that once I read those last few pages after the story has ended, the story somehow changes from the way I first understood it. And I don’t enjoy that change. Back to the point, I read the last few pages of this novel and it broke my heart, it took what I just read and made it so real that I found myself still crying a while after I had turned the last and final page of the book.
This novel is powerful, not just because of the serious subject matter but because of emotionally vivid scenes coupled with amazing writing.

Favourite quotes:

  • “We are like Humpty Dumpty and all these king’s horses and all these king’s men cannot put us back together again.”
  • “If I stay. If I live. It’s up to me.”
  • “I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard.”

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