Tuesday, February 10, 2015

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

In the book If I Stay, Gayle Forman uses flashbacks to help the reader better understand Mia and the current situation she is. Although these flashbacks did help me to get a better understanding of the relationships Mia had and who she was a person, I felt like there was something missing from the story. As I mentioned in my previous post, after reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio, I have been finding myself thinking about all of the characters in the story and the impact that they have on the main character and the overall book.  When I was reading, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, I think that other character's perspectives were missing from the story. I wish that I had the perspectives of Kim, Gram and Gramps, Adam, and even the nurses, the social worker, and the pickup truck driver. This may have helped to know what happened to Mom, Dad, and Teddy and to gain a better understanding of the relationship Mia had with all of these people. I am also curious to know their thoughts, emotions, and reactions to what is going on. As R.J. Palacio clearly pointed out, there are at least two sides to every story and all of these important for fully understanding what is going on.

On page 82., the nurse tells Mia's grandparents that she has full control over whether she lives or dies. That the choice is all hers. Although I am no medical expert, I did not fully buy into this idea that Mia had the option to choose whether she lived or died. It just didn't make sense to me that in that situation, she would have much control over what happened to her. On p.180, Mia says, "I wonder if every dying person gets to decide whether they stay or go." It seems like she doubts that death is always a choice as well and maybe is even starting to question whether she really has the choice or not as well. Although I enjoyed the story, especially the parts about Mia's relationships with Adam and Kim, I feel like I needed to really buy into this theme of the "power of choice" in order to completely love this book. However, I do think it was well-crafted, because the cliff-hanger ending has me wanting to read the sequel to see if Mia lived and what her life will be like if she did. I am also interested to watch the movie and see how it compares to the book! From my experience, the book is always better!


  1. Christina,
    I agree with you! I wish the book gave us the perspective of Mia's friends and family. This would have allowed me to understand the impact that the car accident had on everyone, emotionally. Obviously Mia is the main character, but I would like to know how Gran and Grandpa felt during this entire ordeal, especially since they were by her side the entire time while in the hospital. You will be glad to know that at least Adam's perspective and point of view are highlighted in the second book! Too bad we did not get a chance to read it this past week. I have more of an appreciation for Adam based on his emotional responses and thoughts in the sequel.
    I can understand how buying into the theme of choice is hard to be convinced of. Obviously we do not know whether or not comatose patients are actually aware of what's going on around them or even play a role in living or not. It's difficult to be connected to this story and become engaged in it, when elements of it are not necessarily realistic. Maybe Gayle Forman's intention was not for readers to believe that comatose patients in particular have the power of choice, but that the average individual does? We all make choices everyday; some more difficult than others. Another theme that I felt as though was more evident in the book was love. Mia's love for her family, friends and music played a critical role in whether or not she decided to stay. Throughout the book, Mia describes her love of each of these things and often contemplates whether she can see herself in a world without her friends, family or music.

  2. Keara,

    I am so excited to hear that Adam's perspective is revealed in the second book! I definitely need to add it to my reading list now. I am so curious to read about things from his point of view.

    I like your thoughts about the theme of choice! I had not thought about it in that way before. It makes sense to me and I can appreciate her choice to be a little unrealistic if that was her overall goal. I also agree with you about the theme of love. This is something that stood out to me too. I really liked how the author highlighted the not so great aspects of love in the story too by allowing Mia to be very honest with us about the insecurity and doubt she felt about her and Adam being able to make it work when she went to Juliard. I think that is something that a lot of young adults go through and is something that a reader can really relate to.

    When I was researching, I came across an interview with Gayle Forman where she answered questions for students who were trying to write about and/or think deeper about If I Stay. One of these questions was, "What is the theme of If I Stay?" I think Gayle's response is really interesting because I have always thought that author's wrote their stories as a way to "teach a lesson" or to encourage a reader to think in a different way. Gayle disproves my misconception by revealing that not all author's begin their writing process with this in mind. Here is the link so you can check it out too! http://gayleforman.com/teachers-and-students/school-paper-questions/

  3. Keara and Christina

    This idea of the theme of choice is also something that I had a hard time with. First, like you both said, taking the idea of it literally did not make much sense. I also said in my blog that it's hard to imagine people that are in a coma such as Mia have to power to decide whether they stay or go. In life though, strange things can happen. Although not exactly the same, this idea of choice reminded me of the man who was in a vegetative state for 12 years. Now that he is functioning and awake, he says he was aware of everything for those 12 years but not able to communicate or move. While his family was waiting for him to die, Martin was fully functioning within his mind. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/09/376084137/trapped-in-his-body-for-12-years-a-man-breaks-free). Looking at this idea literally, I guess anything can happen.
    I really like Keara's idea of the symbolism of what the story is about. Not the idea of people who are in a coma having the choice, but average individuals everyday having the choice and making choices within out lives. On my blog post I discussed why this was such a hard subject for me to grasp and how my personal beliefs hindered the authors intentions of the novel.

  4. Christina, I really appreciate the link you shared in your response to Keara's comments. When writers create a piece for the primary purpose of teaching a particular "moral" or "lesson", these works almost always end up feeling more contrived or 'didatic.'

    In today's review of literature, we would rarely give high praise to an author who seems very "heavy handed" in determining the point of the book.