12 reviews

If I Stay
by Gayle Forman

Published: 2009-03-24
Kindle Edition : 320 pages
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29 clubs reading this now
23 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 8 of 12 members
The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year.

Soon to be a major motion picture, starring Chloe Moretz!

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can ...
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The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year.

Soon to be a major motion picture, starring Chloe Moretz!

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family. Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia's story will stay with you for a long, long time.

Editorial Review

An Interview with Gayle Forman

Q: You started your career as a journalist and your first book is a travelogue about going around the world. Is YA literature a departure for you?

Gayle Forman: Actually, itâ??s more of a homecoming. My first writing job was at Seventeen, where I spent five years on staff and as a contributor reporting the magazineâ??s social-issues stories. I loved writing for teens then becauseâ??contrary to popular opinionâ??they really care about serious issues (from child soldiers in Africa to kids embroiled in the drug war here) and the engage in their reading with such passion. So, now that Iâ??m writing young-adult literature, it feels like Iâ??ve come full circle.

Q: This book explores some serious themes. Why is this a book for kids and not adults?

GF: Itâ??s a book for kids precisely because it explores serious themes. Teenagers are grappling with choices about life and love as much as adults, so why shouldnâ??t their reading reflect that? I donâ??t set out to write YA. It just seems like Iâ??m drawn to stories about young people. That said, I think If I Stay is for adults, too. I love the idea of teens reading this book and then handing it off to their parents.

Q: Many key characters are serious musicians, and songs are referenced throughout the book. Are you a musician?

GF: No. Except for piano lessons when I was a kid and a brief spate of guitar playing in my teens, Iâ??ve never played an instrument. I am, however, a huge music fan. And my husband is a musician; he was playing in a punk band when we met, so Iâ??ve spent a lot of my life ensconced in that scene. I seem drawn to writing about musicians, though Iâ??ve never been all that interested in the cello until Mia popped into my head.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

GF: Music. Oregon. People I have loved. And unfortunately, the book is inspired by a real-life tragedy that happened several years ago.

Q: This is a book about death, but itâ??s not depressing. Why is that?

GF: Maybe because itâ??s really about the power of loveâ??of family, friends, musicâ??and therefore it ultimately affirms life.


7:09 a.m.

Everyone thinks it was because of the snow. And in a way, I suppose that’s true.

I wake up this morning to a thin blanket of white covering our front lawn. It isn’t even an inch, but in this part of Oregon a slight dusting brings everything to a standstill as the one snowplow in the county gets busy clearing the roads. It is wet water that drops from the sky—and drops and drops and drops—not the frozen kind.

It is enough snow to cancel school. My little brother, Teddy, lets out a war whoop when Mom’s AM radio announces the closures. “Snow day!” he bellows. “Dad, let’s go make a snowman.”

My dad smiles and taps on his pipe. He started smoking one recently as part of this whole 1950s, Father Knows Best retro kick he is on. He also wears bow ties. I am never quite clear on whether all this is sartorial or sardonic—Dad’s way of announcing that he used to be a punker but is now a middle-school English teacher, or if becoming a teacher has actually turned my dad into this genuine throwback. But I like the smell of the pipe tobacco. It is sweet and smoky, and reminds me of winters and woodstoves.

“You can make a valiant try,” Dad tells Teddy. “But it’s hardly sticking to the roads. Maybe you should consider a snow amoeba.”

I can tell Dad is happy. Barely an inch of snow means that all the schools in the county are closed, including my high school and the middle school where Dad works, so it’s an unexpected day off for him, too. My mother, who works for a travel agent in town, clicks off the radio and pours herself a second cup of coffee. “Well, if you lot

are playing hooky today, no way I’m going to work. It’s simply not right.” She picks up the telephone to call in. When she’s done, she looks at us. “Should I make breakfast?”

Dad and I guffaw at the same time. Mom makes cereal and toast. Dad’s the cook in the family.

Pretending not to hear us, she reaches into the cabinet for a box of Bisquick. “Please. How hard can it be? Who wants pancakes?”

“I do! I do!” Teddy yells. “Can we have chocolate chips in them?”

“I don’t see why not,” Mom replies.

“Woo hoo!” Teddy yelps, waving his arms in the air.

“You have far too much energy for this early in the morning,” I tease. I turn to Mom. “Maybe you shouldn’t let Teddy drink so much coffee.”

“I’ve switched him to decaf,” Mom volleys back. “He’s just naturally exuberant.”

“As long as you’re not switching me to decaf,” I say.

“That would be child abuse,” Dad says.

Mom hands me a steaming mug and the newspaper.

“There’s a nice picture of your young man in there,” she says.

“Really? A picture?”

“Yep. It’s about the most we’ve seen of him since summer,” Mom says, giving me a sidelong glance with her eyebrow arched, her version of a soul-searching stare.

“I know,” I say, and then without meaning to, I sigh. Adam’s band, Shooting Star, is on an upward spiral, which, is a great thing—mostly.

“Ah, fame, wasted on the youth,” Dad says, but he’s smiling. I know he’s excited for Adam. Proud even.

I leaf through the newspaper to the calendar section. There’s a small blurb about Shooting Star, with an even smaller picture of the four of them, next to a big article about Bikini and a huge picture of the band’s lead singer: punk-rock diva Brooke Vega. The bit about them basically says that local band Shooting Star is opening for Bikini on the Portland leg of Bikini’s national tour. It doesn’t mention the even bigger-to-me news that last night Shooting Star headlined at a club in Seattle and, according to the text Adam sent me at midnight, sold out the place.

“Are you going tonight?” Dad asks.

“I was planning to. It depends if they shut down the whole state on account of the snow.”

“It is approaching a blizzard,” Dad says, pointing to a single snowflake floating its way to the earth.

“I’m also supposed to rehearse with some pianist from the college that Professor Christie dug up.” Professor Christie, a retired music teacher at the university who I’ve been working with for the last few years, is always looking for victims for me to play with. “Keep you sharp so you can show all those Juilliard snobs how it’s really done,” she says.

I haven’t gotten into Juilliard yet, but my audition went really well. The Bach suite and the Shostakovich had both flown out of me like never before, like my fingers were just an extension of the strings and bow. When I’d finished playing, panting, my legs shaking from pressing together so hard, one judge had clapped a little, which I guess doesn’t happen very often. As I’d shuffled out, that same judge had told me that it had been a long time since the school had “seen an Oregon country

girl.” Professor Christie had taken that to mean a guaranteed acceptance. I wasn’t so sure that was true. And I wasn’t 100 percent sure that I wanted it to be true. Just like with Shooting Star’s meteoric rise, my admission to Juilliard—if it happens—will create certain complications, or, more accurately, would compound the

complications that have already cropped up in the last few months.

“I need more coffee. Anyone else?” Mom asks, hovering over me with the ancient percolator.

I sniff the coffee, the rich, black, oily French roast we all prefer. The smell alone perks me up.

“I’m pondering going back to bed,” I say. “My cello’s at school, so I

can’t even practice.”

“Not practice? For twenty-four hours? Be still, my broken heart,” Mom says. Though she has acquired a taste for classical music over the years—“it’s like learning to appreciate a stinky cheese”—she’s been a not-always-delighted captive audience for many of my marathon rehearsals.

I hear a crash and a boom coming from upstairs. Teddy is pounding on his drum kit. It used to belong to Dad. Back when he’d played drums in a big-in-our-town, unknown- anywhere-else band, back when he’d worked at a record store.

Dad grins at Teddy’s noise, and seeing that, I feel a familiar pang. I know it’s silly but I have always wondered if Dad is disappointed that I didn’t become a rock chick. I’d meant to. Then, in third grade, I’d wandered over to the cello in music class—it looked almost human to me. It looked like if you played it, it would tell you secrets, so I started playing. It’s been almost ten years now and I haven’t stopped.

“So much for going back to sleep,” Mom yells over Teddy’s noise.

“What do you know, the snow’s already melting.” Dad says, puffing on his pipe. I go to the back door and peek outside. A patch of sunlight has broken through the clouds, and I can hear the hiss of the ice melting. I close the door and go back to the table.

“I think the county overreacted,” I say.

“Maybe. But they can’t un-cancel school. Horse is already out of the barn, and I already called in for the day off,” Mom says.

“Indeed. But we might take advantage of this unexpected boon and go somewhere,” Dad says. “Take a drive. Visit Henry and Willow.” Henry and Willow are some of Mom and Dad’s old music friends who’d also had a kid and decided to start behaving like grown-ups. They live in a big old farmhouse. Henry does Web stuff from the barn they converted into a home office and Willow works at a nearby hospital. They have a baby girl. That’s the real reason Mom and Dad want to go out there. Teddy having

just turned eight and me being seventeen means that we are long past giving off that sour-milk smell that makes adults melt.

“We can stop at BookBarn on the way back,” Mom says, as if to entice me. BookBarn is a giant, dusty old used-book store. In the back they keep a stash of twenty-fivecent classical records that nobody ever seems to buy except me. I keep a pile of them hidden under my bed. A collection of classical records is not the kind of thing you advertise.

I’ve shown them to Adam, but that was only after we’d already been together for five months. I’d expected him to laugh. He’s such the cool guy with his pegged jeans and black low-tops, his effortlessly beat-up punk-rock tees and his subtle tattoos. He is so not the kind of guy to end up with someone like me. Which was why when I’d first spotted him watching me at the music studios at school two years ago, I’d been

convinced he was making fun of me and I’d hidden from him. Anyhow, he hadn’t laughed. It turned out he had a dusty collection of punk-rock records under his bed.

“We can also stop by Gran and Gramps for an early dinner,” Dad says, already reaching for the phone. “We’ll have you back in plenty of time to get to Portland,” he adds as he dials.

“I’m in,” I say. It isn’t the lure of BookBarn, or the fact that Adam is on tour, or that my best friend, Kim, is busy doing yearbook stuff. It isn’t even that my cello is at school or that I could stay home and watch TV or sleep. I’d actually rather go off with my family. This is another thing you don’t advertise about yourself, but Adam gets that, too.

“Teddy,” Dad calls. “Get dressed. We’re going on an adventure.”

Teddy finishes off his drum solo with a crash of cymbals. A moment later he’s bounding into the kitchen fully dressed, as if he’d pulled on his clothes while careening down the steep wooden staircase of our drafty Victorian house. “School’s out for summer . . .” he sings.

“Alice Cooper?” Dad asks. “Have we no standards? At least sing the Ramones.”

“School’s out forever,” Teddy sings over Dad’s protests.

“Ever the optimist,” I say.

Mom laughs. She puts a plate of slightly charred pancakes down on the kitchen table. “Eat up, family.” view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

From the author:

1.Compare and contrast a point in your life when you felt you controlled your future with a time when you felt powerless.
2.Describe a situation when you gave up something in your life. Why did you do it? How did giving it up make you feel?
3.How much control do we have over our own destiny? What coping skills help us deal with personal tragedy?
4.Discuss the meanings of “sacrifice” and of “choice.” How are they different? How are they similar?
5.Discuss the use of point of view in the story. To continue the first person, present tense, point of view introduced in the opening scene, the writer has Mia narrate the story in an unusual way. Why might the author have chosen this technique instead of writing the entire story from third person
point of view?
6 Forman makes extended use of flashback to tell the story. Explain how the flashback scenes help us understand Mia’s thoughts about living or dying.
7. If I Stay is a superb example of internal conflict. Cite passages from the story that speak the strongest to Mia’s struggle.
8.Could the story have been titled If I Leave? Why or why not?

Suggested by Members

How strong are your beliefs in life after death?
If faced with the same issue, what would your choice be?
Would it matter if she was a mother and had lost her children instead of her family?
by mkrupiak (see profile) 08/15/14

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

Book Reviews & Praise:

A New York Times Bestseller

A Publishers Weekly Bestseller

“Will appeal to fans of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight.” – USA TODAY

"The brilliance of the book is the simplicity."

– Wall Street Journal

"I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn't be captivated by [this novel.] Gayle's insight into teens and her exploration of the many facets of love and family are hard to forget."– Family Circle

"A teen book that will stay with you – even if you’re not a teen."– San Franicsco Chronicle

"If I Stay" throbs with love and tragedy. And the dilemma of choice. Long after its last moment, readers may find themselves dwelling on how the story resonates in their own lives."– Sacramento Bee

"Forman squarely nails the types of questions teens find fascinating."– Chicago Sun Times

"Heartbreaking and gorgeously written…Warning: This will definitely make you cry." – San Jose Mercury News

"Beautifully written."– Entertainment Weekly

"[A] beautiful novel."– Los Angeles Times

“Graceful, imaginative and haunting, If I Stay is both a page-turner and a gentle, satisfying read.” -Patricia McCormick, author of National Book Award Finalist Sold

"Intensely moving, the novel will force readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that make them worth living."-Publishers Weekly, starred review

Dear Reader,

So, if someone were to describe my book IF I STAY to me—17-year-old girl goes out for a drive with her family, tragedy strikes, she finds herself as a ghost-like outsider to her critically injured body as she’s rushed to the hospital and attempts to decide whether to live or die—I’d think: Major Downer. And to be sure, there are Kleenex moments. But the thing about this book, the thing readers keep telling me, is that it’s sad in places (hence the Kleenex) but that in other spots, you’ll be cracking up. And that at the end of the book, you’ll find yourself feeling really hopeful and uplifted and paying attention to all the things that matter in your own life.

Why is that? Sad stuff happens to Mia, the 17-year-old cello player who’s the book’s heroine. But a lot of funny and happy things happen, too, as Mia relives her first kiss with her swoon-worthy boyfriend, Adam, her fistfight with her best friend, Kim, her obsession with cello, her relationship with her supercool punk-rock parents and her ebullient little brother. At the end of the day, I think this is really a book about love. And what’s not to love about that?

I spend most of my working life alone at a desk so I'm always thrilled—no, seriously it makes my day—to talk to book clubs, be it in person or via the interwebs (live chats or Q&As). Mosey on over to my web site and drop me a line if you're interested in me visiting your book club.

Stop by www.gayleforman.com or visit me on Facebook to say hi or learn more.



Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
by Abby U. (see profile) 08/06/19

by Cynthia B. (see profile) 03/24/15

  "If I Stay"by Jill F. (see profile) 11/23/14

It was a very short book that was a bit disappointing. It did not explore several ideas that our book club thought would make for a more intriguing story.

  "If I Stay"by Marty K. (see profile) 08/15/14

I loved this story. I think it opens the dialogue of what one would do if you were given the opportunity to stay in a life where you know you will face the pain of loss, but you have the hope of love,... (read more)

  "If I Should Stay"by Nancy L. (see profile) 05/31/12

Ms. Forman did a great job with conveying the emotions of this teen and spreading it to an adult audience. She captured the essence and attitude of Mia in her inbetween world and the decisions she would... (read more)

  "good read"by Melissa V. (see profile) 03/02/11

  "Touching Story Told With A Unique Voice"by Jodie B. (see profile) 02/12/11

A touching story told with a unique voice, that begins with a moment that changes everything.

  "You should "stay" to read this book"by Toni B. (see profile) 01/20/11

This book is inspiring. It was an easy read and I liked how it floated between the "two" of her. (I don't want to give anything away here) The story grew as time went on and you could love all the quirks... (read more)

  "If I Stay"by Sarah M. (see profile) 01/05/11

Had no idea what the end would be...

  "If I Stay"by Kristin K. (see profile) 12/01/10

I would not recommend this book to clubs. It made for poor discussion as the book did not have a lot of depth to it. Quick read and a young read.

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