Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Monday, June 23, 2014

Plot Summary:
When Mia and her family decided to make the best of their "Snow Day," they all jumped into the car to visit friends and family. What was so supposed to be a family adventure filled with laughter and joy, Mia and her  family are involved in an accident that leaves her comatose. Although Mia is barely alive, her spirit hovers over her body and all of the people in her life. Before the accident, life seemed to be going good; Mia was waiting on a response from Julliard (a prestigious school for musicians) and her boyfriend's band was taking off. Although Mia seemed okay on the outside, she was struggling with the distance between her and her best friend and she wasn't sure if her relationship with Adam was going to make it. Despite these fears, Mia was having the typical growing pains that all teens have when they are about to go off on their own. However, the accident not only ripped Mia of her body, but it took away their very people who mattered the most to her. As she floats between this plane and the other, Mia looks back on her life and remembers all of wonderful details about her life, her parents, her little brother, and her grandparents. Knowing that she will never be able to be with her mother and father prevents her from returning to her body (even as she watches her grandparents and extended family) Mia realizes that she is in control of her situation. Mia is trying desperately to make a choice, but she doesn't know how and that is terrifying because she wants to be with Adam and her brother. More importantly, Mia can't imagine her life without her parents, she also can't live without Adam. This is a tragic story of a girl who has to make a very difficult choice of staying with people who still love her and letting go of those who gave her life and unending happiness.   

Critical Evaluation:
I probably shouldn't be reading, and listening, to two very similar stories at the same time (not sitting well with my emotions). This story is so beautifully written it's like a song that takes listeners on a journey to an unknown destination; readers can feel the pain, the loss, the regret, the hopelessness, but the amazing amount of empathy and revelation. One can only imagine what Mia could be going through and to have to make a choice that would leave her without her parents and brother. No one should ever have to suffer from this dilemma and it's totally unfair that Mia has to make the decision. I realize, as an adult, that life isn't fair, but COME ON! This is just cruel! I have yet to meet someone who has survived a near-death experience, but a part of me wonders what's it like to see your life from the outside. For Mia. she sees herself and yet she decides to witness her position from the sidelines. In many ways, Mia seems to be testing not just her family, but Adam and Kim as well. Mia has always had this lingering feeling that she never belonged given the fact that her parents were punk rockers and she's a classical musician. With Adam, the only thing they really have in common, is music, but on the opposite sides of the spectrum. As for her relationship with Kim, which started off the wrong way, their differences are what brought them together. The sad thing is that Mia misses the point that opposites really do attract and, rather than celebrating those difference, she saw it as a obstacle between her, her parents, her boyfriend, and her best friend. I think the hardest part of this story is that if we, as readers, decide to put ourselves in Mia's position not only will be just as devastated as she is, but will we be unable to dig up the courage to make the choice that she does.If you pair the ending of the book with Yo-Yo Ma's Andante con moto e molto rubato, everything will come crashing together and the tears will flow. Brilliant move from a brilliant writer.

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a journalist who specialized in reporting on young people and social-justice issues. Which is a fancy way of saying I reported on all the ways that young people get treated like crap—and overcome! I started out working for Seventeen magazine, writing the kinds of articles that people (i.e. adults) never believe that Seventeen ran (on everything from child soldiers in Sierra Leone to migrant teen farm workers in the U.S.). Later on, I became a freelance journalist, writing for magazines like Details, Jane, Glamour, The Nation, Elle, Budget Travel, and Cosmopolitan.
In 2002, I went traveling for a year around the world with my husband, Nick. I spent time hanging out with some pretty interesting people, a third sex (we’d probably call them transvestites here) in Tonga, Tolkien-obsessed, role-playing punks in Kazakhstan (bonus points to those of you who can find Kazakhstan on a map), working class hip-hop stars in Tanzania. The result of that year was my first book, a travel memoir called You Can’t Get There From Here: A Year On the Fringes of a Shrinking World. You can read about my trip and see pictures of it here.
What do you do when you get back home after traveling the globe for a whole year? First, you get disproportionately excited by the little comforts in life: Not having to look at a map to get everywhere? Yay! Being able to drink coffee without getting dressed and schlepping to a cafĂ© first? Bliss! Then, if you’re 32 years old and have been with your husband for evah, you have a kid. Which we did. Presto, Willa!
So, there I was. With a baby. And all of a sudden I couldn’t do the kind of gallivanty reporting I’d done before. Well, you know how they say in life when one door closes another opens? In my case, the door came clear off the frame. Because I discovered that I could take the most amazing journeys of my life without ever having to leave my desk. It was all in my head. In stories I could make up. And the people I wanted to take these fantastical journeys with, they all happened to be between the ages of 12 and 20. I don’t know why. These are just the people who beckon me. And I go where I’m told.
My first young-adult novel, Sisters in Sanity, was based on another one of those social justice articles I wrote when for Seventeen and you can click here to read the article. Sisters was published in 2007. My next book, If I Stay, was published in April of  2009 by Dutton. It is also being published in 30 countries around the world, which is surreal. The sequel/companion book to If I Stay, Where She Went, comes out in April 2011. I  am currently working on a new YA novel, that is, when my kids (plural, after Willa we adopted Denbele from Ethiopia) allow me to. And after that book is finished, I’ll write another, and another….

Teen Issues, Teen Contemporary Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to If I Stay:
Awards & Recognition:
  • Starred Review from Publisher's Weekly
  • Starred Review from School Library Journal
  • Starred Review from Booklist

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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