If I Stay

If I Stay - Gayle Forman This is one of those wackadoodle books where a young woman on the cusp of life meets a tragic fate and then floats around in a dead/near-dead state observing her friends and family. This type of plot intrigues me because the character always learns a lot about Life when she is reduced to an outsider incapable of action. It also bothers me, though, because I think: if a character is dead or comatose, shouldn’t she be, you know, dead or comatose? As a reader, my imagination has very few limits; I’ll accept ghosts, vampires, dragons, superviruses that only infect hermaphrodites born on Tuesday afternoons during a blizzard, but invisible floating (semi-)dead girls? That’s crazy!Qualms about the premise aside, If I Stay is a short book overflowing with emotion. It unrolls over a single day and we alternate between the comatose protagonist Mia watching her friends and family cry in the hospital waiting room and the comatose protagonist Mia remembering happy stories with her friends and family from the past. The crux of the novel concerns Mia’s choice. After suffering a catastrophic car accident with her entire family, Mia asks, in the famous words of The Clash, “Should I stay or should I go?” That is, should I keep living despite the fact that my life as I knew it ended today? Or should I simply give up and die, having nothing left to live for? The plot largely succeeds because the flashbacks are well chosen; we get to see what is at stake for Mia, what she’d lose (or depending on religious perspective, what she’d regain) if she dies.Pondering what you would decide in Mia's situation is fascinating. It depends on your faith and on your relationships, but for anyone, it’s a question with no good answer. Seeing what Mia chooses and why she chooses it makes If I Stay a worthwhile read.