Mia has a fairly typical teenage life, full of big dreams and her potential as a cellist at Juilliard when she moves to New York City for college. But she’s also torn between leaving her boyfriend Adam and friends behind to achieve her dreams, knowing that things are going to change soon. On one snowy winter day, Mia learns that despite all well-laid plans life is always unpredictable, leaving her with a single choice, probably the most difficult she will ever have to make.
I purposely waited a good while before beginning If I Stay because it was incredibly hyped on its release and I didn’t want that to tarnish my own experiences with it. I always hesitate with a book everyone loves, because sometimes I don’t love it as much as they did, but with Where I Went out and clogging the blogosphere with reviews, I thought I’d better get a move on before the story was completely spoiled. With this book, I fell just as hard as everyone else. I had actually managed to avoid spoilers of any kind, so I wasn’t quite sure where the book would take me. I simply knew that a girl had to choose whether to live or to die over the course of the book.
It all starts out quite straightforward. Mia and her younger brother have been granted an unexpected snow day from school, so both of her parents stay home too. When the snow starts to clear up, they head out for an amazing free day, but the roads are still slippery, and a large truck hits Mia’s family’s car. Mia winds up in a coma with an extended out-of-body experience as she does her best to decide whether life is worth living. This approach means that we can see just how deeply everything affects her; we learn the status of her family members as she does, we witness all of her visitors, and we can see how painful her choice truly is.
I loved how, despite Mia’s circumstances, we still get a complete picture of her life before the accident, told through flashbacks that make perfect sense. This doesn’t work for some novels, but it struck me hard; Mia isn’t the drama queen or mean girl that features in many teenage novels, but neither is she a wallflower. It’s easy to get the gist of her personality from the flashbacks and begin to understand just what she’s lost and what the world would lose without her. We get to know all of her family members and the depth of their relationships to her and to one another. Although I thought her family seemed at times too perfect, they needed to be for the book to really work. As for her romance with Adam, I liked that it was already somewhat on the rocks before the accident even happened due to their potential separation. It felt more real than a simple diehard teenage love story.
If I Stay is an excellent YA novel that uses a tragedy to explore very common teenage feelings of uncertainty against the world and the fragility of life. I’d recommend it!
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