Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: Young Adult
The picture of a happy and loving family Mia, her parents and her younger brother Teddy all pile into the truckster to spend a day out and about in snowy small-town Oregon. Happily puttering along they were completely unsuspecting of what was to come when, with a slip of the ice, everyone is plummeted into a strange chaotic purgatory like existence. It is in this one slippery moment that Mia finds her life irreversibly changed.
Cold and damp, it is in the first blink of her eyes when Mia awakens to the realization that they’ve been in a tragic accident. An accident that has ripped apart everything and everyone she knows. What takes several more moments after that for her to recognize is that she’s not exactly of this world any more. Mia now hovers in a ghostly place between life and death as she helplessly watches on while friends and family urge her to choose coming home to them over ascending to heaven.
Now it’s her choice – should she stay or should she go?
Forman has crafted a sweetly poignant story out of such sorrow by weaving the emotional web of Mia’s heartbreaking journey as she travels through her past towards a decision as to whether she’ll have a future.
Expertly written the author tells the story of not only Mia but everyone who surrounds her all from the singular viewpoint of a girl teetering between life and death. It is in this seamless movement between past and present then the ultimate focus on the promise of a future that we connect best with Mia. Further, by using love (familial, friendly and romantic) as a common thread Mia navigates its many forms so that it reverberates through each aspect of the story until she has to stop and think of what could be lost if she let everything go.
By showcasing the lives of Mia’s family and friends through the use of flashbacks the reader bonds with each and is shown how their presence in Mia’s life makes the weight of her looming decision all that heavier. In seeing their interactions we feel how much she has to live for yet understand how she could see equal value in letting go. These strong characterizations allow readers to have a stake in Mia’s life right along with her friends and family. Readers are given the ability to feel the compassion and empathy for her in the moments she spends watching on as visitors vigil beside her seemingly lifeless body. We find ourselves rooting for her to make the best possible choice – some hoping she chooses to live while others understanding why she wouldn’t.
Taking this emotional ride with Mia is not light or fluffy. While there are happier moments, in flashback, there are an equal number of instances where the reader’s heart will break. In the end, that is the exact reason I encourage all to pick up a copy.