I first read If I Stay when it came out 5 years ago, but with the movie coming out (next month!) I thought it was time for a reread. This book means a lot to me since it was the book to really get me hooked on YA, and my mother and daughter loved it too. (Yay for multigenerational literary connections!) So, I’ve read a lot of books since then and wasn’t sure this book would be as meaningful a second time. But the waterworks still came, and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to make it through this movie without sobbing my eyes out! I continued my stroll down memory lane by listening to the companion novel, the even more angsty Where She Went– I was already crying why not continue, right?
I don’t know what really I can add to the conversation about these books so I’ll keep my notes brief. Both books are still very popular due to the movie of course – If I Stay is currently #2 on the NY Times YA Best Sellers list, while Where She Went is #8. (Side note: All of the books on the list are movies already or movies are in the works- wow!) Basically I think these books are still incredibly moving and absolutely worth your time as a reread or as someone who has to read the book before seeing the movie.
If I Stay is the story of Mia, a cellist with a loving family and boyfriend. She’s waiting to hear if she made it into Julliard and worried about leaving her rocker boyfriend Adam behind. Suddenly, she’s in the hospital after a devastating car wreck and her only worry is if she has it in her to stay.
Since I read this book five years ago I’ve lost some important people in my life, so I read If I Stay this time around with a different filter. The hospital scenes with the machines, doctors, nurses and loved ones are very vivid and ring true. While your heart goes out to Mia’s loved ones praying for Mia to survive, it’s so easy to relate to Mia’s struggle to keep on living as well.
In If I Stay, Mia has an out of body experience in the hospital, so even though she’s comatose she gets to see and hear her friends and relatives, even when they are not in her hospital room. What she hears from her loved ones is simply gut wrenching. Everyone is dealing with devastating grief, but holding on to hope that Mia can survive. Their pleas and comforting words left me an emotional wreck.
There are flashbacks in the story as Mia is processing her life. The reader gets to know Mia’s family, about her relationship with Adam, her friendship with Kim, and about her passion for music. This all seamlessly blends in with present-day Mia and also makes the story even more emotional.
I think experiencing emotional books in audiobook form makes the sad parts even sadder, but I was curious to see how the narrator would pull off this story. Since music is so important to Mia, it was lovely that some cello pieces are included in the audiobook. Kirsten Potter, a new-to-me narrator, performs the audiobook. Potter’s voice sounds a little too mature for this YA book, though she does capture the right tone for the story and I didn’t want to stop listening.
I didn’t plan to listen to the companion book Where She Went right after this book, but Gayle Forman had other plans for me, and luckily I had borrowed both audiobooks from the library.
Where She Went is Adam’s story, and takes place a few years after the events of If I Stay. The first time I read this I remember being caught off guard that Mia and Adam weren’t together. Mia’s now in New York, and Adam is an A-list rockstar, selling out stadiums all over the world. They have a chance encounter in New York and get to hash out the past. What drew them apart and is it too late to start over?
I did review this one before so I’m going to cheat a little and include an excerpt here:
The mood of the book is somber and dark as that is Adam’s state of mind. Adam’s depression comes through loud and clear. In a way I felt Adam’s story was even more compelling than Mia’s. Some of the scenes are gut-wrenchingly awkward and painful to read. The author presents a realistic look at a break-up post-mortem and all the hurt feelings, numbness and guilt that goes along with it. Along with the painful moments though, there are some incredibly touching and sweet scenes. This is an emotional read that you will want to read in one sitting.
The Where She Went audiobook is wonderful. Dan Bittner performs Adam’s story to perfection and sounds as shell-shocked, bitter and damaged as you’d expect Adam to sound. Adam and his band Shooting Star have a massive hit album called Collateral Damage (all about guess who) and the audiobook includes guitar music snippets and Bittner reading song lyrics. Bittner has a great leading man voice that you may recognize from other New Adult audiobooks and this might be my favorite of his performances.
So, that got more long-winded than I wanted it to be. I’m so glad I revisited these books before the If I Stay movie – now I’ll be ready opening night with tissues in hand.
Are you planning to read If I Stay before seeing the movie?