Caught Between Life & Death: If I Stay (2009) by Gayle Forman



If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2009)

Suggested age range: 12 and up (Dutton, 196 pages)

Rating: 5/5 stars   Source: Library

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Contemporary

The Book: Mia is a seventeen year old girl, who loves her family, loves to play the cello, and is in love with her boyfriend. Note: Love is a theme in this story! A drive out on a snowy day changes all of that in an instant, and Mia is faced with a huge decision. It is her working through of this decision and its implications that represents the focus of the book, and even as the story progresses in Mia’s present, we receive glimpses of her past. Love, courage, strength, and fear are all actors on the stage of a narrative that is powerful, intense, and definitely gives readers space for reflection and about significant matters of living and dying.  

Spirituality in If I Stay: The blurring of the boundary between death and life is certainly a space for discussion of spirituality. Being and dying are spiritual concerns, and we are constantly asking questions about these issues. What happens when we die? How do those left behind deal with the loss of loved ones? Can family and friends hope to see their loved ones some day? I have read many testimonies and even books of people who have had near death experiences, and this topic certainly opens up conversations and wondering about whether there is a spiritual aspect of life, and whether there is “life after death.” I really enjoyed how this story brought up that conversation, because I think within such philosophical reflection, we are also thinking about our spirituality.   

Who Should Read This Book: Young adults and adults who are ok with an intense and sad (in places) story should certainly check our Forman’s work. This was my first encounter with Gayle Forman, and now I want to read all her books. I’m looking forward to the sequel.

The Final Word: I read this book in one sitting, and was intrigued about what decision Mia was going to make—to live or to die? A book that opens with a car accident seems like it would be pretty intense; it was, but at the same time, the story opened up memories and aspects of the protagonist’s life that were crucial to understanding her wrestling with her decision.


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