Imagine if all your choices were gone. Except one. And it’s the only one that truly matters.

Every so often, you stumble upon a book which feels like it changes your life – even if just for a little bit.
This can be said about ‘If I Stay’, which is a young adult novel, focused around the life and potential death of seventeen-year-old Mia Hall – a girl from Oregon, deeply in love with playing the cello.

First off, I need to suggest never reading this book in public because, even if you just have a fraction of a heart, it will most likely make you cry at some point.

Secondly, it needs to be said that Gayle Forman does a splendid job at diving into the lives of the Halls, especially Mia and her relationship with Adam Wilde, as well as her infatuation with classical music.

What works so well with this book is just how open, honest and relatable it is. With teen romance, the loss of loved ones and the reality of growing up and making life-changing decisions, it is easy to see why this 210 page book has been making waves since its release.

Although I do not want to give too much detail away about the plot [*for those who have stumbled onto my review debating whether to give the novel a chance or not*] I will say this… the ending is flawless. It will have you cradling your pillow at 3AM because you’ve stayed up all night to finish the story. And no, that does not give away which decision she makes because by the time you get to the end of the book, you’re so attached to every character in Mia’s life that you will tear up no matter if the outcome is what you wanted or not.

This book grips you from the first line – ‘Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. And in a way, I suppose that’s true’ – and refuses to let go until weeks after you’ve finished it. It packs so much into such a tiny, one-sitting read.

My suggestion to all is that if you do decide to read this book, read it fresh. Do not look at spoilers, do not watch the film adaptation first, and do not google its mass collection of inspirational and raw quotes [*there are a hell of a lot of them*]. Go into the story not knowing what to expect because each twist and turn deserves to be read in its passionate, thought-provoking way.

But as that is just my opinion, for those who wish to know a bit more about the plot in order to dedicate themselves to reading it, I will place a couple of further details below: [*Contains some spoilers but not the important ending*]…

‘On a snowy day, Mia, her mother, her father, and her little brother, Teddy, decide to go for a morning drive. Another car crashes into theirs, causing serious injuries for the entire family. When Mia awakens, she finds herself detached from her body, which is barely holding on. She finds the bodies of her mother and father, who died from the crash. She also finds the body of herself, who is on the brink of death. Mia realises that she is having an out of body experience, and follows her physical body to the hospital. She watches her extended family rush to take care of her, while her best friend Kim and her boyfriend Adam struggle to reach the hospital. Through her stay at the hospital, Mia reflects on her life, reminiscing about the development of her relationship with Adam, the development of her passion and talent for playing the cello, and the obstacles of being a teenager who feels out of place no matter where she goes.’

Setting: – Oregon

Favourite characters: – Mia Hall, Kim Schein

Hated characters: – X

Favourite quote: – Sometimes you make choices in life and sometimes choices make you. – Denny Hall

Overall rating: – 4/5

Other important information: – ‘If I Stay’ was adapted in 2014 into a teen romance film, starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley.


‘If I Stay’ by Gayle Forman was originally published in 2009. It was followed by ‘Where She Went’ – a continuation of Mia’s choice – which was published in April 2011.

Media about dying teens often plays out as mawkish melodramas; how satisfying, then, to find a book that’s actually well-written, compelling, honest, and unsentimentally moving.  – Matt Berman


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