Monday, 4 May 2009

Book review - If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay releases in the UK as a hardback on 7th May. It's already out in several other countries.

Mia has a close family, friends, and a wonderful boyfriend. Sometimes this makes it harder for her to decide about the future. However difficult her decisions are though, her life is set to be full of music, happiness, love. Then in an instant, on a snowy road, her life changes forever. She faces the hardest decision of all, and she’s more alone than she’s ever been.

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.

I thought I knew what this book was going to be. Having read the reviews, I figured I knew the plot. I expected it to be an amazingly written book that could only really end one way.

Then I started reading. Mia’s family were so believable, especially her little brother Teddy. I could almost see the whole family chatting around the breakfast table. Thankfully the pacing at the beginning was fast – I was expecting a long and dragging build-up. And suddenly, I wasn’t so confident that it could only end one way. The writing gripped me and I was invested in the characters. Not just Mia, but also her grandparents, Adam, Kim. I not only cared what would happen to Mia, but I cared how it would affect all those who had joined together to support her. The past and present was weaved together nicely to give a greater depth to all of the characters.

The book reads quite quickly, maybe because I was paying so much attention to it. For a relatively small book (210 pages), it’s packed with breath-taking story and doesn’t feel at all rushed. There is just enough plot to sustain it, especially as it's so short, but If I Stay is more a character study, a snapshot of Mia's life and choice than anything else. I wasn’t quite sure about the ending at first. It left me wanting more, wanting to know how her decision affects everyone instead of cutting off so quickly. Now I’ve considered it, I feel that the book is a story about a decision – it’s about the choice itself. The difficulty of the choice as opposed to the difficulty of the effects of that choice.

Mia’s decision was especially poignant. I cried more than once reading this, and I don’t cry when I read books. I not only felt her sadness, but understood it. A good writer can make you care when their character is in trouble. A great writer can make you understand the trouble, even if it’s something that you yourself can’t personally comprehend. For me, If I Stay was an example of the latter. It was a beautiful, uplifting book. I recommend it for those looking for a book with substance and heart.


  1. Great review! I'm looking forward to reading this soon.

  2. Great review Hannah. Glad you loved Gayle's work as much as I did. Isn't Adam like your new literary crush?

  3. Nice review H. I loved it too, it's such a brilliantly written story. And I'm siding with Adele... how cool is Adam?!

  4. Wonderful review! I loved this book too. (Though, gulp - am I the only person who didn't cry while reading this? I worry about myself sometimes!)

  5. why have i not read this yet?! After reading your review, I know I'll like it. I used to hate sad books, but now I sort of like them. (If i'm in the mood for a tearjerker) It has to be written really well for me to actually cry though...

  6. Adam was pretty cool! Though a bit excessive at times ;)

    Chicklish, don't feel bad! Usually I'm the one who doesn't cry at a book, that's the only reason I mentioned it. I guess you have to be in the right mood.

    Amy, I think you might like this then. You do have to be in the mood for it though.

  7. Awesome review! And I didn't cry while reading this either. Though I did care about Mia :)

  8. Phew! Thank you for making me feel better. I definitely did really care about Mia too. :)

  9. Great review. This is the third blog I have read today that has recommended this book. I'm definitely going to have to read it.

  10. Aww that a beautiful review!! I saw this book in the store and wasn't going to buy it but now I want to read it and find out whats it about.