Books contemporary drama fiction mental illness Realistic Fiction Romance Young Adult

“If I Stay”: a novel with a great message

If I Stay is the international bestseller by YA author, Gayle Forman. A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make and the choices that, ultimately, make us. With the film adaption taking us on a journey through the highest and lowest parts of our lives, it is impossible not to reflect on how we live our own lives after watching or reading it. A powerful story with an amazing message, Forman gives us an unforgettable novel.

‘Just listen,’ Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.’ I open my eyes wide now. I sit up as much as I can. And I listen.

‘Stay,’ he says.

Everybody has to make choices. Some might break you.

For seventeen-year-old Mia, surrounded by a wonderful family, friends and a gorgeous boyfriend decisions might seem tough, but they’re all about a future full of music and love, a future that’s brimming with hope. But life can change in an instant.

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.

As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all. Haunting, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, If I Stay will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve lost – and all that might be.


If I Stay really is an epic, tear jerker of a story. How anyone can walk away after reading this without questioning a single thing about their own life and how they live it, I have no idea. In a nanosecond, everything in our lives can change. North suddenly becomes south; east suddenly becomes west, and we can end us lost in a world that seemed so far from our own. But not only does Forman remind us of that, she also shares a beautiful deeper message in If I Stay.

At a first glance, it is easy to assume that the overriding question of the novel is this: given these horrific changes in my life I didn’t foresee, nor realise the level of pain I would be made to bear, would it be better for me to pass on to the next life or press on in this one?

In all honestly, this is a universal question that I believe each one of us will encounter at some point of our lives. That moment when we ask ourselves, what makes our lives worth living? It’s, again, universally acknowledged that the answer to this question lies in our loving relationships and the pursuit of our goals and dreams. But what does that look like to each one of us?

This is what I mean when I say that Forman makes us question the way we live our own lives with If I Stay. However, this is not the message of the novel.

When reading the novel, I felt that this was the deeper message that Forman was screaming out to her readers: You are loved. You are beautiful as you are. You have something to contribute to the world that no one else does. Play your music, however that is, contribute to your passions, pursue your dreams and show your talents. Whatever you do in your life, don’t give up or duck out. You are wanted and you are needed. You are alive – so live.

At one point in If I Stay, Forman writes:

“And that’s just it, isn’t it? That’s how we manage to survive the loss. Because love, it never dies, it never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang on to it.” – Gayle Forman, If I Stay

Mia chose to allow her mind to dwell on the beauties in life rather than solely on her losses. That is a powerful message people need to hear, especially when faced with grief and loss. When everything in your world seems to be falling apart, and you find yourself questioning your ability to carry on, that is how you do it. By holding on the love in your life, we can make it through.

That is how we survive the unsurvivable, to do the impossible. Love is always in our lives – it never leaves us, even when we push it away. And even when we fear that we’ve lost all the love in our lives, life always makes more. We are alive. So we need to live. And use the love in our lives to help us survive.

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