It’s a snowy day in Oregon, and so Mia and her brother Teddy have the day off school. Her father is a teacher, and her mother doesn’t want to be the only one working, so they decide to make the most of the day and go visit some friends. They all get into the car, but, on the road, a truck crashes into their vehicle.
The next thing Mia knows, she’s standing at the side of the road, looking at the wreck of the car. But how can she be standing there, when moments before she was inside the car, pretending to be playing cello along to the radio? She finds her body, and realises that she’s some kind of ghost. All she can do is follow as her body is taken away to hospital, watching and listening to doctors, nurses, relatives, and friends as they visit her. Or that’s what she thinks at first. But soon she finds out that she has a decision to make. To follow her parents, or to live on, to stay.
If I Stay has been a huge hit amongst book bloggers, so I had decided a while ago that it was something that I wanted to read. However, I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. I don’t usually choose to read books that I know will be sad. I don’t mind if I’m reading a book that happens to have some tear-inducing sections, but I wouldn’t ordinarily pick out a book about death, for instance. Just the title of Before I Die makes me cringe away! I guess I have this preconceived notion that books about an issue like death will be bleak and depressing all the way through.
To say that If I Stay is a sad book to read would be the understatement of the flipping decade! Mia has a wonderful family, and they die! She has her whole life ahead of her, and she’s considering leaving it behind! Tears came to my eyes at least four times whilst I was reading it. However, If I Stay was not relentlessly sad all the way through. When I was reading about Mia’s family, or her relationship with Adam, I would forget for a couple of pages that it was all doomed, and enjoy it as naturally as I would if those scenes had appeared in any other novel. But then we’d be back to Mia at the hospital, and the tragedy would seem all the more tragic. Also, because Mia’s friends and remaining family members were so brilliant, I couldn’t help but hope that she wouldn’t choose to go. I wanted her to stay, as hard as that would be for her to live through, and that kept me reading on.
I really loved the characters. I liked that the teenage characters were relatively mature (though it made the events all the more devastating). I adored all the quirks, from Mia’s dad’s bow ties, to her grandmother’s obsession with angels and returning spirits in animal forms. Even the nurses had individual traits, which made every one that much more memorable, and made the story seem fully fleshed out. I also really liked the role that music played in the story, and the writing was beautiful, with the descriptions and Mia’s thoughts balanced out nicely by dialogue.
I was gripped from the start of If I Stay to the finish, and I am looking forward to reading more books by the author. I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t mind crying a little bit whilst reading!