Seventeen-year-old Mia has her entire life ahead of her. She’s a shoo-in for the prestigious Juilliard School of Music, and the biggest decision she has to make is whether to move to New York on her own or stay in Oregon with her boyfriend Adam. That decision seems trite in comparison to the one she faces after a deadly car crash changes the course of her life forever.

If I Stay  is a page-turner, save the moments when reflection is required. In a fairly slim volume, author Gayle Forman manages to create a believable and virtually blameless character in Mia. Readers will find themselves drawn to empathize with Mia and nearly all of the other characters at some point.

Mia contemplates her love for the cello, her boyfriend Adam and her best friend Kim. She also considers what life will be like having lost so much. Life and death are the two choices presented to Mia, but the first-person account offers no insight into who is presenting that decision. Religion, faith and pre-conceived notions about life after death play no role in this bare-bones depiction of the psychological inner-workings of one young woman.

Soon to be a film, If I Stay calls to mind Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, but readers must cope with the tragic events in the novel without having the satisfaction of a specific character to blame. Teen readers will be thrilled, horrified, saddened and excited by the subject matter. The implications of Mia’s choice—and eventual decision—will resonate with readers of all ages.

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