“If I Stay (If I Stay #1)” by Gayle Forman

Gayle Forman
Read Date: 5 January 2014
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she’ll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

Disclosure: “If I Stay” has been recommended to me so many times already, but I only read it now because National Book Store announced that Gayle Forman is coming to the Philippines on January 18. Back when I got my first recommendation and I read the synopsis, I felt like it might hit a little too close to home, so I didn’t read it.

Well, it did hit very close to home in more ways than one, and while it was a very good story and I loved it, this will go on my “do not re-read if you value your sanity” list. But it’s not you, Gayle Forman; it’s me.

I loved how Forman wrote Mia and everyone around her; they come across as real people, as if they could have been my next-door neighbors. (Although, sadly, my real neighbors aren’t as cool.)

I also loved how she fleshed out Mia’s life and relationships in between her critical moments after the accident. This highlighted the stark contrast between Mia’s almost fairy tale life pre-accident and her current condition. I was rooting for Mia to pull through, of course, but the contrast was so great that Mia’s internal conflict was very much justified, and readers can sympathize with her even if we are very much alive. And her conflict is also important when we get to reading “Where She Went”.

This book really put me on an emotional roller-coaster as very few books have before. I honestly think that may even be the reason why I can’t give this a straight up 5 stars, even though, again, it’s no fault of Forman’s.

Those roller-coaster moments are too personal for the internet, but I can say I hit rock bottom in this book when I got to the part where Mia’s grandfather whispered to her that it’s okay if she wanted to go. I had to say that to someone once in my life in the same situation, and I don’t think I can do it again.

I immediately read “Where She Went” after this, and I think I loved that book more because Adam’s angst and his battle with life was such a welcome read after Mia’s (and all the other characters’, come to think of it) battle with death.

I recommend “If I Stay” to…well, to just about anyone. Except those who are very depressed; stay away. 😛

Now I’m gonna go watch “WINNER TV”. Nothing like a bunch of cute and dorky boys singing and doing dorky things to make me forget about this post.