I read If I Stay in anticipation of the release of it’s film adaptation earlier this year. It is a story about grief, loss and choices. The narrative follows Mia Hall, a seventeen year old as she deals with the aftermath of a terrible car crash. The story is told in a nonlinear structure, alternating between the events of present day and Mia’s memories of her family, friendships and relationship with guitarist boyfriend Adam.
A lot of the story is about Adam and Mia. They have a ‘first love’ kind of relationship, and have been struggling to stay together as they each meet success in their musical lives. Adam is always touring as his band grows more and more successful while Mia’s application to Julliard means she might be moving across the country anyway. She is facesd with a difficult decision. Who should she put first? Her dream or him?
As far as I can see, the main thing that sets this book apart from it’s counterparts is it’s ‘out of body’ element. Without giving too much away, Mia goes through an out of body/near death experience and it is from this semi-supernatural vantage point that the narrative unfolds. It’s an interesting concept and perhaps slightly more believable considering some new scientific findings about awareness after death (read this article if you’re interested). I found that this made the story slightly more difficult to connect with – although there are sections where ordinary daily life peppered throughout the narrative. It reminds me in some ways of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver in which the main character undergoes another similar trauma, but instead of having some time in an out of body experience, the main character is stuck in a time warp where she relives the day of her death over and over again, each time making different decisions to try and avoid the tragic outcome. Out of the two I definitely preferred Before I Fall because it is a slightly more complex situation and deals with more complex issues than Mia’s decision between love or success and living or dying in If I Stay.
I finished reading the novel a few days before the film came out and was lucky enough to see an early screening with a colleague from school. I really enjoyed both the film and the book, but definitely think it’s aimed more at a younger teenage audience. After reading the novel I was wondering how they’d portray various parts of the book and I was impressed with how they adapted it to the screen. I think to some extent I even found this film more powerful than the book in terms of feeling emotional and teary. I didn’t cry in the book but had a few eye watery moments in the film. This is pretty unusual for me because I usually like books better than their movies!
Overall I’d give the book a rating of 2.5/5 because while I enjoyed it, I felt that it was hard to connect with the characters and I felt it was not a particularly unique story. It is definitely not a challenging read but I’d recommend it for high school aged girls as an accessible narrative.
Buy it here from The Book Depository and see what you think!