The PW review:
Starred Review. The last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state (Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live. Via Mia's thoughts and flashbacks, Forman (Sisters in Sanity) expertly explores the teenager's life, her passion for classical music and her strong relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, Adam. Mia's singular perspective (which will recall Alice Sebold's adult novel, The Lovely Bones) also allows for powerful portraits of her friends and family as they cope: Please don't die. If you die, there's going to be one of those cheesy Princess Diana memorials at school, prays Mia's friend Kim. I know you'd hate that kind of thing. Intensely moving, the novel will force readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that make them worth living. Ages 14–up.
I finished If I Stay days ago and I'm still thinking about it. Mia's family is so richly drawn that one can't help but grieve for them as the story moves along. It's fortunate for the reader that their accident happens early on in the book, because I don't know who could bear to read about it after spending 200 pages getting to know (and love) Mia's parents and family. Mia is exactly the kind of girl I love: smart, reserved, passionate, musically-inclined, introspective. I felt such affection toward her while reading her story, and a deep concern for what she was going through. Her relationship with Adam is mature and beautiful, and their one detailed love scene is a unique, understated, and completely swoon-worthy.
I tend to get annoyed with extended use of flashback (as a reader, at least), but Gayle Forman does it so well in If I Stay that past and present work seamlessly together and the pacing never slows. This is just a fantastic, beautiful, heartbreaking book.