If I Stay

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
If I Stay Book Poster Image
Gripping, unsentimental look at teen in coma.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 13 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 63 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Can spark discussions about a range of topics, including unusual narrators to more intense talks about what they would do in Mia's place. Readers who enjoyed this book may want to check out its sequel, Where She Went.

Positive Messages

The main character struggles with whether to live or die. Readers will have to think about Mia's choice: What would you do in her place? It's heavy material, but in an interview with Amazon, the author said, "it’s really about the power of love -- of family, friends, music -- and therefore it ultimately affirms life."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Through Mia's disembodied thoughts and flashbacks we get to know not only her, but also her quirky, semi-punk parents, her sweetly energetic brother, her friends, and especially her boyfriend, Adam -- and all of them are appealing characters.

Violence

A gruesome car accident, graphically described ("gray chunks of what looks like cauliflower," etc.). Several characters are killed, and Mia has horrific injuries. Two girls have a fight.

Sex

It's implied that Mia and her boyfriend have had sex, and stated that he has in the past, a brief discussion of virginity, mentions of one night stands, lesbians, and having unprotected sex, which leads to pregnancy. In one very sexy scene, Mia and her boyfriend take turns playing each other like a musical instrument, leading both to climax.

Language

Quite a bit, including "assholes," "s--t," "f--k," "motherf--r," "bitch," "ballsy."

Consumerism

Clothing store, sneaker, electronics, soda, fast food brands mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mia's father smokes a pipe, and she likes the smell; drinking and drunkenness; children drink wine as part of a religious ceremony.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a book for teens about a girl who loses her family in a car accident -- and is now in a coma. In addition to plenty of swearing and sexual material (including a steamy scene of mutual masturbation), it deals with the aftermath of the gruesome accident as Mia decides if she wants to live or die. This book can spark discussions about a range of topics, including unusual narrators to more intense talks about what they would do in Mia's place. Readers who enjoyed this book may want to check out its sequel, Where She Went.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 year old Written byjuly984 April 30, 2011

Disapointing first, better latter.

I love this book!!! At first, I thought it was really boring. But after I got more into it, I couldn't put it down.
Parent of a 10, 12, and 18+ year old Written byMDmomof3 October 6, 2012

Really liked this series

I really enjoyed this book and it's sequel but it's really suited to upper high school girls. (Especially the sequel due to the discussion of sex and... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byRAININGsunSHINE August 29, 2010
Love this book. And sex? You wouldn't even realize that they did unless you were older and could put dialogue with action together, its not graphic at all.... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byAGbookworm January 13, 2011

Wonderful Book!

This book is a really good story. I think it sends the message that you should never give up on your dreams. Mia is a good role model because she is brave and a... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mia, a gifted cellist who may be heading to Julliard next year, barely survives a horrific car accident that kills her family. As her broken body is extracted from the wreck, rushed to the hospital, and worked on by doctors, Mia hovers between life and death in a coma. She finds herself out of body, able to walk invisibly through the hospital and listen in on family, friends, doctors, and nurses. Roaming the corridors and her memories, she realizes that she has a choice: Does she want to struggle through a life without a family and perhaps crippling injuries, or will she let go and perhaps rejoin the loved ones she has lost?

Is it any good?

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. Through Mia's disembodied thoughts and flashbacks we get to know not only her, but also her quirky, semi-punk parents, her sweetly energetic brother, her friends, and especially her boyfriend, Adam -- and all of them are appealing characters.

Despite the supernatural, out-of-body premise, author Gayle Forman keeps Mia's story grittily real, perhaps a bit excessively so in the accident scene (which demonstrates the power of metaphor and grim humor to unsettle the reader), but also in the characterizations, relationships, and hospital routines. She lets the situation play itself out matter-of-factly, relying on the power of the events to speak for themselves, rather than bringing in the literary equivalent of throbbing violins to wring sobs out of readers. This is moving and very thought-provoking, but never manipulative or melodramatic.
 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about teen books and movies that deal with a young person's death. What other titles can you think of? Why is this a topic that resonates with teens? How does this book compare and contrast with other media?

  • This book's topic is intense -- as are the descriptions of the accident and some of the sexual material and language. Should a book ever be off limits to teens? Who should decide?

Book details

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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