On a snowy day in Oregon, a small family decides to take a drive to visit family and friends. How were they to know they would slide across the ice and crash? How was Mia to know that on that day, that cold and snowy day in Oregon, she would lose most everything she loved? How was she to know that, in the aftermath, fate would be in her hands?
I borrowed this book from the library. As I was leaving, I glanced down to my hand and read on the cover, “Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight.” I nearly dropped the book right into the return slot.
Friends, please – don’t judge a book by its cover.
I am not in the fan club of that aforementioned series and I assure you “if i stay” is not anything like it. Sure! It’s a quick read, and there is romance. But seriously, I wouldn’t compare fans. So you don’t either. You don’t have to walk by this book.
In fact, the opening chapter of “if i stay” is one of the best opening chapters I’ve read in awhile. Usually, it takes me a few chapters to realize I am enjoying a book. Sad, but true. Not so with this one. Immediately, there is a happy, intact, family of four hanging out with each other, by choice. No angsty teenager. In her place, a happy one who loves her parents and her younger brother. And they love her. This isn’t the Brady Bunch, mind you. This family has its foibles – it’s what makes them believable. It’s what made me fall in love with them. It’s what made my heart break 50 pages in.
And from time to time, my heart constricted and I sobbed just a little bit more as Mia, stuck between the living and the dead, watches her family convince her to stay. As they pour out their love for her, she remembers fondly her love for them. All of this in a realistic manner, too. No dumbed down conversations to wade through. Surprise! Teenagers knows how to talk in complete sentences. No surprise. Gayle Forman knows how to write convincing dialog and she knows how to write out the human heart.
Is this a “Catholic” novel? No. There is the idea that all religions are equal as Kim – Mia’s Jewish friend – wonders why there is not Muslim or Buddhist representation in the “non-denominational” chapel at the hospital. Mia’s grandmother loves guardian angels, but they aren’t Catholic guardian angels. And of course there is a weird bedroom scene between Mia and her boyfriend, Adam which is uncomfortable and odd. See below for the list of what you may want to be aware of in the book. But this is the book where the parts shouldn’t spoil the whole. And where the audience is key. Throw out the whole book and you’ll miss a very relate-able, life affirming story.
Life in all its unpredictable messiness, is lovely. And so worth living.
What You Need to Know
- Role Models/Authority Figures – Mia has two engaged, loving parents. Their values aren’t in line with catholic teaching, though (no surprise, they are not Catholics). Kim has a less than stellar parent. Grandparents are portrayed lovingly and also as excellent role models.
- Violence – Car crash?
- Langage – Yes. The f-bomb, and a few others.
- Sexual Content – An intimate scene where the characters “play” each other like musical instruments. In Mia’s bedroom. Later, Mia makes reference that she and Adam “fight over the covers”. Mia’s parents are “suckers for love” and so let Adam and Mia in Mia’s bedroom, door closed. Also, they let him “stay over”.
- Consumerism –
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs – No, not that I remember.
- Religion – Weird angel idea (people can come back as animals to be your angel. And angels can choose to be born as babies). Mild suggestion that God is missing in the suffering. Mia’s mother is pro-choice and has a “if you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a baby” bumper sticker. Mia’s mother takes her to Planned Parenthood to get the pill, and gets her started on $10.00 worth of condoms to use until Adam is tested for venereal diseases.
- Other – This book was made into a movie, released August 22, 2014.
- Neat stuff – In the back of the book, Gayle Forman gives the reader a little insight into how the story came about. She also provides a “behind the music” section. Quite cool for all you music junkies.