Soooo the If I Stay movie is set to release next Friday and it’s bound to be amazing. It’s a YA contemporary book-to-movie adaptation that’s being heavily portrayed as a love story. Sound familiar? It’s no surprise that there have been comparisons between If I Stay and The Fault in Our Stars. What better way to hook an audience than to compare the new release to an already widely known and loved story (much like Divergent was often described as “the new Hunger Games”)? Huge fans of both books can confidently say that the two are very different, though.
If I Stay is a story about the fragility of life. Sixteen year-old Mia is a musical prodigy. She lives in a loving home with accepting parents and she has found the love of her life. Her entire world is turned upside down when her and her family are involved in a fatal car accident, killing her family and leaving her literally on the edge of life and death. With almost everyone she loves gone, Mia must decide whether or not she should fight to stay alive. Should she wake up an orphan, or let herself die to be with her family? Should she leave Adam or should he be the sole reason she stays? What will happen if she stays?
The Fault in Our Stars is a story of the power of young love and the importance of living each day to its fullest. Hazel Grace has accepted that she has cancer; she’s ready to die. That is, until she meets Augustus Waters. Gus loves life and can always find the light in every situation. As this unlikely pair fall in love, they grow as people and find themselves rewriting their own destinies.
The most obvious difference between the two novels is the source of tragedy. Mia loses her loved ones suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving her with no time to say goodbye and little time to choose her own fate. Hazel and Gus have cancer. Although they know that one of them will soon die, they have time to come to grips with it. Obviously, death of a loved one is tragic no matter how much time someone has to prepare for it but, for the sake of contrasting the books, these two tragedies are not at all similar. As mentioned previously, Mia has to make the choice to live or die for herself. She has a choice. Gus and Hazel don’t have that choice. They’ve been diagnosed with cancer and the choice to live is not available to them. Not only are the natures of the tragedies different, the characters’ fates because of them are as well.
Speaking of the main characters, their development and portrayal are completely different. Mia is a very level-headed and mature sixteen year old that has her whole life planned ahead of her before her accident. Reading from her point of view is very somber because she thinks very realistically; which can be depressing at times since her life has been struck with such tragedy. Adam is a typical rock band musician. He lives in the moment and all he cares about is music and Mia. Since the only real grasp of the characters we get is from flashbacks, it is hard to gauge the relationship; especially with such tragedy lurking in the present.
Thankfully, we get a better look inside Adam’s mind in Where She Went because it is written from his point of view (a luxury we didn’t receive with TFIOS). As for Hazel, she’s mature yet she is also cynical and quick to point out the flaws in the world. Her narration is quirky and hilarious because she always has a sarcastic tone. For example, her thoughts on Patrick from support group are absolutely hysterical and she clearly doesn’t see what’s so great about being in the “literal heart of Jesus”. When Gus comes into the picture, she seems to open her mind to more possibilities than just awaiting death. Gus is sarcastic just like her, but he’s worldly and full of life. It’s evident that he breathes some of that life into Hazel throughout the course of the novel. I’m sure we all agree that a companion in Augustus’s point of view is much needed.
As mentioned above, If I Stay is written with shifts between the past and the present for the entirety of the novel as Mia’s memory is triggered by people or events at the hospital. The flashbacks don’t always include Adam. Sometimes they are of her family, her friends, etc. The flashbacks are the only way for the reader to connect with the characters and determine the relationships and character development throughout the book because without them the story would simply be a girl lying in a hospital bed and watching her friends and family grieve. On the other hand, The Fault in Our Stars is always told in the present. Hazel doesn’t have flashbacks or discuss many of her past experiences. This allows the readers to connect with every experience and every character because we aren’t seeing them through the lens of the past. The grief comes at the end and it hits hard because we have grown so attached to these characters. This aspect of the two stories is a very key difference. It is the make-or-break part of the novel. How do we connect with the characters? Do their struggles affect us? If the answer is no, then the author hasn’t done a well enough job of developing them. In this case, both novels succeed in giving us all the feels, but in very different ways.
I could get nit-picky and discuss differences in setting, characters’ looks, or any other miniscule details of the two books. But the point of this article is not to do so. My point is that, although the stories fall under the same genre, they are completely unrelated. Whether If I Stay or The Fault in Our Stars is better is a matter of opinion, buuuut it’s safe to say that the list of comparisons is much smaller than the list of contrasts. Both novels are amazing and to be honest, I’m shaking in excitement for the release of If I Stay, just as I was for the release of TFIOS. Young adult love stories always give us feels and make us fall in love with them, but they are all told so differently and that’s what makes them all unique. That’s why we fangirl over them individually and never get tired of it! What are your thoughts on this discussion? How excited are you for the If I Stay movie?