If I Stay

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

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 12 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 74 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.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bymegg1 October 8, 2015

Best Book Ever

This is a have to read book
Adult Written bysheyannes December 16, 2015

Very good book.

If I Stay is on my top books I recommend to people. I picked up the book and I couldn't put it down. The next thing I knew it had only been a two days and... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 25, 2014

If I Stay

I personally loved this novel! The author Gayle Forman knows exactly what it is like to be in a coma without actually being in it. This is a very thoughtful no... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byKacey___ Dragon Boy April 4, 2020

Worth the read

the flash backs give the book feeling. and all in itself this book is amazing. if i say anymore I'll give things away but if you like this book consider re... 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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