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Bending the Spine

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman



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 heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make -and the ultimate choice Mia commands.


Audio CD, 5 discs
Published April 2nd 2009 by Penguin Audio (first published January 1st 2009)
ISBN 0143144456 (ISBN13: 9780143144458)
url: http://www.ifistay.com/
series: If I Stay #1
literary awards: British Fantasy Award (2010), An ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2010), South Carolina Book Award Nominee for Young Adult Book Award (2011), TAYSHAS High School Reading List (2010), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2009), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fiction (2009), ALA Teens' Top Ten (2010), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2010), Pennsylvania Young Readers' Choice Award YA Nominee (2011), Florida Teens Read Nominee (2010), Delaware Blue Hen Award (2011)


I’ve been planning this review in my mind for a couple days, since I was far enough in to know how I felt about it.  If I Stay is so tragically beautiful that I’ve not been able to clear the fog of emotions from my mind that Ms. Forman has left me in.  She’s left me feeling very punch-drunk and unsure of myself.

I have read a lot of YA lately, mostly on the paranormal end of the spectrum.  It was a different experience reading this.  It is written in a way that feels real.  Genuine.  Authentic.  Heartfelt.  I can’t really describe just how emotional this book has left me, but to say that at several times I was at the point of tears and had to squelch them since I was driving!

I liked that music was a huge part of the story.  I also like that it never felt snobbish or snooty.  It never felt that Forman was cramming musical terms or song titles or artists down my throat, just that it was a natural extension of who Mia and Adam, and all their friends and family, were.  That if they were to come to life and you were to spend time with them, what you got from the story would be what you got from being around them.  Just very natural and effortless.

The storytelling is fantastic.  There’s the perfect mix of introspection, grief, and memories, both humorous and painful.  If I Stay could have been a disastrous emotional mess (in that it left the readers blubbering, bawling idiots), yet Forman handled it with grace and honesty.  I felt for Mia, I felt for her family.  I agonized over her decision with her.

The ending, though not completely satisfying, was poignant.  Is was as perfect as it could be without feeling cliché, the near perfect conclusion to a near perfect story.  I felt relief that the story was over, and satisfied that it wasn’t nice and neat, that it was still gritty and raw .  I was left with one part of me going “Holy crap that was an awesome ending!” While the rest was, “No! That can’t be all!.”  Bravo, Ms. Forman.  This is your standing ovation.

As I finish this up, I am already well into the sequel, Where She Went.  I didn’t feel that I had to continue the story, Forman wrapped it up nicely.  I wanted to finish it.

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5 Trees: Completely amazing!  Must read!

Get to reading,


  1. I've been intrigued by this novel ever since my first Teaser Tuesday and was teased with a ton of great quotes from this one. I still haven't gotten to it though, but I really need to! I love your review; you have me even more curious if that's possible!

  2. Yes! You do need to read this ASAP!

  3. I have this one on my shelf, but I've yet to read it. I've been thinking about reading it next, everyone says it's super good! I'll have to get to it soon :) Great review!


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