Book Review: If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

The funny thing about me reading If I Stay, by Gayle Forman?

If I’d known what it was about, I wouldn’t have read it.

Here’s how it ended up in my TBR pile. I’d been out and about, doing some blog hopping, which ALWAYS has the effect of adding a book or three or five to Mount TBR (you know how it is, right?). And I came across someone’s review of Where She Went, the sequel to If I Stay. (And my apologies – I know I commented on that review post, but I forgot to jot it down somewhere so for the life of me, I can’t remember whose review it was.)

I ended up adding If I Stay to my TBR list because (those of you who’ve read the book will laugh) somehow I got the impression that If I Stay was a Cinderella-type story. And I am like putty when it comes to a good Cinderella story.

So off I went to my library’s website, to put a hold on If I Stay. Neither the print version nor the ebook version were available, so I put a hold on both formats. The ebook one came in first. Which is why I never had a chance to read the jacket copy, the way I normally would if I was looking at a print copy:

In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck…

A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands. (Courtesy of Goodreads)

See what I mean? Those of you who know me, know I’m very much a “genre reader”. Give me a good mystery or fantasy or science fiction, and I’m happy. But the thing is, I SO DON’T DO DRAMAS.

Perhaps, then, it was one of the best ways for me to come to this story. I literally was blindsided by Mia’s accident. And by then, I was completely – as in heart and soul – into the story.

So here’s my review, in list form:

  1. I have never, not ever, shed so many tears while reading a book as I did while reading If I Stay.
  2. Even now, a week after finishing it, I think about Mia and I get teary-eyed.
  3. Forman does this to the reader without resorting to any saccharine, sickly sweet devices. There’s no deliberate tweaking or pulling of the heartstrings. She does it all by simply, and beautifully, telling us the story of Mia and her family and friends.
  4. On reflection, after finishing the book, I realized most of the story was told in flashbacks. But the key thing is this: while I was reading, I never thought, “ah, a flashback”. Mia’s memories were woven directly and seamlessly into the story. I can’t imagine her story being told any other way.
  5. So maybe I do like dramas after all … as long as they’re told as beautifully as this one was.

The nutshell review: I loved this novel. LOVED it. Loved it to the extent that I immediately texted my daughter about it, then told my son and my husband about it (they were both present for the tears, so were wondering – silently, because they’re good that way), then rated it on Goodreads, then tweeted about it. Because it’s that kind of book.

Have you read If I Stay? What did you think of it?

8 thoughts on “Book Review: If I Stay, by Gayle Forman

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      It was so so so good, Jill! And yes, I got my hands on the sequel a few days later, and polished it off. Very different but still wonderful!

    1. Belle Wong Post author

      It’s made me think again about saying to myself, “not my type of book”, Kathy. My eyes were all puffy and red after I finished – in a good way!

  1. Andi (@estellasrevenge)

    Seee, I wouldn’t pick this one up based on a blurb either. I typically stay away from straight dramas. Glad to know this one worked so well for you. I am much more likely to pick it up as a result of your review.

  2. J. D. Montague

    Dramas don’t put me off, but I definitely need to be in a mindset for it. And I’ve had this book in my reader for a while (at least a year) and I’ve always put it off because I know all too well the subject matter and its tear-jerking ways. But after reading how much you loved it, maybe I need to bite the bullet. But, oh….oh….I don’t know if my heart could take it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>