After a fatal car crash that leaves 17 year old Mia barely alive, she has to make a choice to live or die, after being certain she has lost both of her parents. As she watches her family and friends come to terms with the disaster as she separates from her body she needs to decide. Will she let go and follow her parents into the unknown or fight to come back
As with many other people I became aware of this novel because of its film release, at the time it hadn’t been released and I haven’t seen the movie as I write this. I’d heard good things about the novel and so I decided I’d pick it up and give it a go. It’s certainly a difficult novel and at times can be slightly graphic. We’re guided through the novel by Mia herself as she struggles to watch the rest of the day unfold. All she can do is watch and listen. Her family, friends and boyfriend are all willing her to come back and it’s up to Mia to decide if that’s enough for her.
Although I like the idea, the novel didn’t particularly stand out to me. The novel is fairly short and sways between the present and past and gives us a good insight into Mia’s life before the accident. I found it hard to connect to the story, of course it made me sad, but I didn’t feel a deep rooted connection to Mia or the characters around her. That said, I did feel an incredible connection in relation to how she felt about her music and the prospect of being a musician and this added to the sense of tragedy. If anything I would have loved more insight into her love of music and her hopes and dreams, although maybe this was intentional.
Forman questions something that few of us will even consider thinking about, would you chose to live after losing so many people you love, if you had the choice? Many of us would instantly say we’d choose life, but would we? This is not the first novel of its kind, however, it is the first for young adult readers, it makes them think. I makes the reader consider a life without their loved ones and the choices and sacrifices that are made every day. I wouldn’t say that the novel is morbid in that respect but it deals with death in quite a straightforward way, for Mia it appears to be more of an escape. It also raises the question of life after trauma. We have no idea how Mia will be affected by her injuries if she decides to live. Will she play Cello again? Will her dream of going to Juilliard be snatched away from her as her parents were? Is her younger brother Teddy, whom she adores, still alive? As I said it is a novel full of questions and what if situations.
If anything I’d say that the book could have been longer. Although well written, there was so much crammed into the book that at times I felt rushed through. I wanted to know the smaller details, memories and possibly more about more minor characters in the novel to give them a bit more life within the novel. Also what about afterwards? If she decides to die, does she meet her family? If she lives do her dreams come true? I guess to an extent this leaves us to make up our own minds but I wish this was included in the novel.
I give this novel 3 stars ***. I liked the idea and found Mia to be a nice character but failed to interact with her as a person. I also found that I was hungry for more at the end of the novel and felt that it could have had a better ending or more to it maybe? If you’re looking for a shorter read that raises questions then If I Stay may well be for you but I simply found that there was too much left unanswered at the end.
Review by Chloe Metzger