The author of many young adult novels, Gayle Forman released her novel, If I Stay, in 2009. The story centers around the ultimate decision between life and death that Mia Hall, an exceptional 17-year-old cellist with plans of attending Julliard, must make after a horrifying accident. On a fateful winter day, her family's car collides with a truck, killing her parents immediately, and sending her and her brother, in critical condition, to a local hospital. It is here that Mia, in a comatose state, experiences and out-of-body experience, in which she herself is in control of her fate, to decide whether or not she will stay and continue on with her life, or let go and join her family.
If I Stay achieved an excellent reputation. Publishers Weekly wrote, "Intensely moving, the novel will force readers to take stock of their lives and the people and things that make them worth living." By 2010, Forman began working with Summit Entertainment to develop a film adaptation of the novel. The film, just like the novel, was well-received. As of August 2014, the novel had reached the number one spot on Apple's iBooks, surpassing other popular young adult novels, such as Fifty Shades of Grey and The Hunger Games.
The novel, however, did Make some parents nervous, they worried the grisly details and challenging themes would seem troublesome to their already emotionally confused teens. Most of Forman's novels, such as Just One Day, Just One Year, Sisters in Sanity, and her most recent novel, I Was Here, all depict tales of deeper, darker themes, things that many teens are experiencing or have questions on, yet fear to ask. Topics such as love, suicide, self harm, addictions, rebellion, life and death situations, and many more are common subjects in her books.
In an article she wrote for Time, titled "Teens Crave Young Adult Books on Really Dark Topics (and That's OK)," Forman writes, "Adolescence is a time when teens are statistically more likely to come into harm's way, and thus more likely to witness harm among their peers...Is it any wonder they want books to help process what they're experiencing around them, often for the first time?" Forman, who was into dark, young adult novels as a child, believes that there is no need to fear that current young adult novels will spell a threat to today's troubled teens. "Books don't create behaviors."
Forman is no stranger to the growing pressures adolescents face, and as a writer of many published articles in magazines such as The New York Times Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Seventeen, she tackles difficult subjects head on. Many of her articles address the growing violence rates in today's schools. In her 2008 article, "Caught in the Middle," Forman discusses the growing pressures faced by students in middle school, and the confusing whirlwind of emotional trials that students face. Forman offers insight into teens of other cultures, in relation to topics such as sexuality, social issues, and gender role differences. Thus, Forman's novels seek to offer a therapeutic approach to the difficult topics faced by pubescent adolescents and their growing confusion towards the world around them.
If I Stay is key in providing some insight into a circumstance that many teens might not face, but can relate to in other ways. Forman addresses these concerns in a way that is compelling and unique, providing a fresh insight on many confusing topics. Many teens, especially girls, can relate to Mia. Her distanced relationship from her parents due to their inability to agree on music style is often seen as a struggle between teens and their own parents. Her passionate cello-playing speaks to her desire to please her family and friends, to entertain her desire to be accepted. Her boyfriend, Adam, is both loving and frustrating at times, as she struggles to make sense of her future plans that come into conflict with her feelings for him. Kim, Mia's best friend, and Adam do not care for each other, yet they both are her support system, both in life and near death. At the end of the day, however, the choice to stay is only Mia's decision. Thus, the choices we all must make in our lives, whether it be between the love of our lives or our passions, whether to follow your parents' plans for your future or carve out your own way, whether you choose to carry on or give up-regardless, the choice is yours, whatever it may be. And making that choice is all part of growing up, of transitioning from an emotional teen to a mature adult, and becoming who you are.