If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman is a young adult fiction novel about a teenage musical prodigy and her family.  She’s got a boyfriend with a band that is just taking off, and she’s under pressure to gain admission to Julliard playing the cello.  Tragedy strikes and changes everything, shaking up her world.

Forman’s prose is engaging from the first page, but the tragedy that befalls Mia is a predictable plot device that forces this blossoming 17-year-old to reassess her life.  Her music transports her to a safe place and even though she is not as confident as she thinks she must be to perform it, it is as much a part of her as her family and her boyfriend.  The strength of this novel is Mia’s character, her introspection, her trepidation at experiencing new things, and her ability to overcome embarrassment and fear.

“And I didn’t know how to rock-talk at all.  It was a language I should’ve understood, being both a musician and Dad’s daughter, but I didn’t.  It was like how Mandarin speakers can sort of understand Cantonese but not really, even though non-Chinese people assume all Chinese can communicate with one another, even though Mandarin and Cantonese are actually different.”  (page 47)

Mia often feels on the outside of her family, which has deep rock-and-roll ties in the community, and from her boyfriend, who is a lead guitarist in a up-and-coming rock band, and sometimes even from her own classical music because she has not done many of the things that other classical music prodigies have done with local quartets, etc.  However, Mia continues to plug along, beating back her insecurities and striving for the life she wants.  Forman has a firm grasp of a teenager’s life — the peer pressures they face, the insecurities that haunt each decision they make, and the passions in which they lose themselves.

Forman builds tension by shifting from Mia’s present into her past, careful not to rush through each moment and unfurling revelations as Mia sees them in each fragment of time.  Readers will be moved by Mia’s story and her struggle to find her true self amid high school pressures and more.  But If I Stay by Gayle Forman is more than a coming of age story, it’s about the ties that bind us to one another and how we keep those ties alive and relevant.

This is my 15th book for the 2011 Wish I’d Read That ChallengeI’ve wanted to read this book since reading Jill’s dual review in June.



This is my 32nd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.



  1. I like the cover to this book a lot better than the sequel…

  2. And yet another review that tells me “hurry up and buy me already!”

  3. This sounds really good! I’m glad the author doesn’t overdo it with the grief.

  4. I loved this book! I am usually leery of unplanned sequels but Where She Went was anything but disappointing.

    • I’m glad to hear it wasn’t disappointing. I read it yesterday and really enjoyed it. My review is up today, if you’re interested!

  5. I was listening to this one on audio but felt it would be better in book form so I picked it up. I’d really like to get back to it because I thought it was really good. I’ve got the second one to tackle as well. Great review Serena!

  6. I like especially how you phrased it, the author doesn’t ‘overwrite the grief’ — that’s huge for me — I do love some melodrama at times but a story like this needs something a little more nuanced, I think, rather than heavy handed. Lovely review of a book I hadn’t heard of — thank you!

    • I really enjoyed the novel in read it faithfully in about a day. There is some melodrama, but not too over-the-top. I applaud all book bloggers who get me to try another book or author, and I have to give props to Rhapsody in Books for this recommendation.

  7. Obviously I loved these books! :–) I had to go tearing off to Tar-zhay after I finished the first to get the second, because there was too long of a wait list at the library! :–)

  8. I just read both this book and its sequel. I enjoyed the book a great deal, even though it had a predictable plot device. Compulsively readable prose for sure, since my slow butt actually read it in less than a day. I digressed a little I think as I was reading about the love affair between Mia and Adam…very sweet and innocent and at the same time more mature than your average high school romance. I just need to get my head around the whole thing before I sit down to write the review!

    • I gotcha. I’m reading the second one now, so we’ll see what I think of that now. 🙂 It seems everyone has read these before me. LOL

      I do agree that the relationship between Mia and Adam is mature for a high school relationship, but I also thinks that has a lot to do with Mia’s maturity and her dedication to her music, plus her parents’ good sense.

  9. Beth Hoffman says

    I really enjoyed reading your review. I’ve had this title on my list for a long time but for some reason always wavered when I went to the bookstore. Now I think I’ll pick it up!

  10. I need to get a copy of this book. I’ve got Where She Went and I’ve heard I should read this one first. This sounds like a book I’d enjoy.

    • I’m starting Where She Went today actually. I can see already why you’d want to read the first one. Not sure if it is necessary though. I think you’ll enjoy both of these.

  11. Great review. I just saw that the library has this one, but not in English :/ Hoping for a good translation then

    • I got my copy from the library as well. I hope you get a great translation because the book is really good. I was so emotionally attached to Mia…I didn’t want the book to end.

  12. I’m just about to finish If I Stay. I agree with your review, though the main plotline is predictable, it’s the flashbacks that make this novel interesting and moving. And one of the things I like most about the writing is that Forman is not “overwriting” it. Especially when talking about grief, many writers tend to tell a lot, but Forman shows.