If I Stay by Gayle Forman; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: If I Stay

Author: Gayle Forman

Published: April 2nd, 2009

Number of Pages: 208

Rating: 2/5


“‘There are like twenty people in that waiting room right now. Some of them are related to you. Some of them are not. But we’re all your family.’

“She stops now. Leans over me so that the wisps of her hair tickle my face. She kisses me on the forehead. ‘You still have a family,’ she whispers.”


Yet another book that I’ve seen showered with praise and have not enjoyed. While cataloging books, I saw that my school librarian (who, as of Thursday, is one of my favorite people because she bought a bunch of books I want, including Paper Towns by John Green.) bought this book and remembered Sarah loved it. I checked out the nice, brand-new copy as soon as possible.

I read this book very quickly but for all the wrong reasons. I read quickly so that I could finally finish it and move on. I felt that the plot was underdeveloped. Nothing happened between the terrifying beginning and the awesome ending (one of the high-points of the novel). The flashbacks were incredibly frequent, and I found them irritating. I am not a huge fan of flashbacks in general, and often think that they’re bordering on tacky, however, Gayle Forman went about writing the flashbacks well. They simply clogged up the book.

The main plotline seemed like more of a way to link the various bits and pieces of Mia’s life we see through the flashbacks. Quite honestly, it just seemed like the plot was choppy. I would have liked more of the book to center around the now of the setting and have dealt with her decision. In my opinion, flashbacks=backstory, and we all know that introducing more backstory every other page can be tedious. Of course, those who haven’t read the book are probably wondering what I’m talking about…

Mia finds herself making the most momentous decision of her life. Or death. Or in-between.

After a tragic car wreck, Mia is in an out-of-body experience. Literally. She watches as her comatose self suffers through a collapsed lung, multiple surgeries, etc. She comes to realize that whether she lives or dies depends solely upon her. Does she go, or does she stay? Soon, it becomes evident that her list of greatest reasons to live is dwindling. The pros and cons of both choices are nearly matched.

I think the worst part about this novel is that it had so much potential. I would have loved to have Mia think more and remember less. Only some of the flashbacks seemed pertinent to the decision she was supposed to make, while others felt like they should have been cut.

Gayle’s voice didn’t stand out to me. It wasn’t that her voice was repelling, it was that it was average. It was monotonous because it’s the voice of so many other authors, one that didn’t seem very unique to me. I didn’t feel like I could recognize her work anywhere or that there was even an individual behind the words. Her writing was good, don’t get me wrong, but her voice was nearly nonexistent, unless, of course, it’s exactly like twenty other peoples’.

I didn’t feel like I got to know Mia very well, but you did learn to love the side characters. I loved her family, and there’s a particular scene with her Gramps that is fantastic. My favorite parts of the book were in the now, when her family came in and spoke to her while she was in her coma.

Spoiler Alert. (I know, what’s with me and spoilers recently?) Another issue with the sex in a book. It wasn’t the actual act of sex. Nothing happened that made me feel uncomfortable because the book was fairly clean. I also understood Mia’s opinion on sex beforehand, so I wasn’t shocked. My problem was with the fact that it was portrayed as repairing the relationship. Or giving it a good start. Whatever. I simply don’t believe that passing on the message that “you-must-have-sex-with-your-boyfriend-because-it-will-make-you-love-him-more-and-repair-your-relationship-and-make-you-feel-like-you’re-in-love-and-really-sex-is-just-the-glue-that-holds-every-relationship-together” is a dandy idea. Obviously, I’ve never had sex, but I can tell already that a relationship is about love, and that love is love, not sex. Tangent and Spoiler is Over.

I realize that I’m probably sounding like a jerk right about now. I don’t mean to discourage people from reading this book. I don’t mean to insult anyone who loves this book (there are a lot of people who adored it). In fact, here are some reviews you can read that express an entirely different opinion:

Best Book o’ the Month <– The post by Sarah that originally caught my interest.

If I Stay: THE SEQUEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If I Stay / Gayle Forman

Book Review – If I Stay by Gayle Forman

In the end, I think that the end of If I Stay was the best part. I loved the end. It was written well and the motives behind Mia’s choice were moving and clear. The end nearly bumped the rating up to a 3/5, but I remembered that I gave Shiver a 3/5 and liked it a lot more.

If, however, I have not entirely talked you out of reading this book (which was not my intention), I’ve realized that many people have fallen in love with this story. And, very likely, you will, too. There’s something in this book that’s special. Remarkable. Incredible. I just didn’t see it.

2 Commentsto “If I Stay by Gayle Forman; Review”

  1. My sister, a prolific reader, never enjoys books with flashbacks. She reads very quickly and finds constantly moving backwards and forwards within the story slows her down and frustrates her.

    I really enjoyed If I Stay, but I appreciated your review as well. It's always interesting to read a well expressed opinion of a book that manages to discuss issues that didn't work personally for the reader without becoming an attack on the author or genre.

  2. Interesting, solid review. I always like to see the other side of the opinion on really popular books. I thought it was a nice touch that you added links to opposing thoughts.

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