Given the dearth of dramas about real-life grown-up problems, especially in summertime, movies adapted from young-adult novels are about the best we can hope for. Even when they're not great, they fill a need, for teenagers and grown-ups alike. If you're in the mood for a story about humans who are a little less expendable, you could do worse than spend an air-conditioned afternoon watching If I Stay. Chloë Grace Moretz plays Mia, a teenage rebel, though not the sort you'd expect: She's a disciplined cellist with dreams of attending Juilliard.
The cutest and coolest guy in her school, an aspiring rock guitarist named Adam (Jamie Blackley), spies her practicing alone in a classroom one day, and zing go the strings of his heart. They begin dating, but tragedy strikes: Mia and her family suffer a serious car accident, one that puts Mia in a coma. While flesh-and-blood Mia lies in a hospital bed, right at the crossroads of life and death, out-of-body Mia drifts around listlessly, reflecting on her recent past and asking herself the same question the Clash once posited: Should I stay or should I go? It's the ultimate teenage fantasy, an extension of the "You'd be sorry if I died!" retort so beloved by melodramatic 15-year-olds everywhere. At a certain point, If I Stay takes a maudlin turn and just keeps going. But Moretz is strong enough to carry it. She makes out-of-body Mia's soul-searching wholly believable: There's a vulnerable softness to her eyes that suggests she really is thinking and feeling all the time, suspended in that gel of emotional turmoil we remember as teenagerhood.