Monday, March 28, 2011

If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Copyright 2009
Dutton Books - Young Adult
199 pages

I got a copy of the sequel to If I Stay from Dutton Books, so I rushed out to my public library to check out If I Stay and read the two books back-to-back. I feel very fortunate for having the opportunity to read them that way, since my library's Young Adult section, while growing, is still pretty thin and I doubt Where She Went will show up for quite a while after its release.

If I Stay is a tragic story and I'd actually avoided it because I kept hearing what a tough read it is, but I've read some difficult books. I told myself I'm tougher than I look. I look like a jelly roll. We won't go there, though.

17-year-old Mia has a lovely, funny family that she adores and a boyfriend she loves. But, she is a brilliant musician and she must choose whether or not to leave her family and boyfriend when she's offered a spectacular opportunity to continue her musical education far from home.

Then, suddenly, tragedy strikes and Mia has a completely different choice to make. I love this part of the blurb on the cover flap: "If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make."

Here's where I put up a spoiler warning. If you haven't read If I Stay, skip down to The Bottom Line!!! I'm not going to give away the ending (unless you move on to read about Where She Went, which will spoil the ending of If I Stay) but there might be some spoilery bits and I'd prefer not to ruin this read for anyone. ***SPOILER ALERT!!! You have been warned.***

Mia and her family go for a drive on a snowy day. One minute, Mia is enjoying the music, the scenery and the company of her family. The next minute, she's on the ground. She walks around and discovers the mangled bodies of her parents, then sees her own body and watches as paramedics take her away. She can hear her rescuers and follow along. She knows she's alive but she doesn't have any idea how she can see what's happening or what it means. She's afraid to find out whether or not her beloved little brother Teddy has perished along with her parents.

As Mia lies in a coma, she reflects on her romance with her rock guitar-playing boyfriend Adam, her family life, and how she came to play the cello and grow in skill. Meanwhile, she's also able to walk around the hospital, look down on herself during surgery, see people coming and going and hear what they say. I won't spoil how she comes to make her decision to live or die or even what the decision is, but the book ends on a surprisingly hopeful note.

***End Spoiler Warning***

The Bottom Line - I thought there were times If I Stay was just a little slow and it is a roller-coaster, emotional read, but I loved the story. I was crazy about Mia's family -- her father, in particular, reminded me of my own light-hearted father (whom I was constantly told was "such a cool dad") and I found the dilemma so compelling that I couldn't bear to put the book down till I finished. I liked the writing and was impressed by the musical detail. And, I loved the relationship between Mia and Adam. While the book has been referred to as "tragic," I think it's also uplifting and thought-provoking. I definitely recommend it but I recall thinking it deserved a PG-13 warning for some sexuality.

Please don't read the following review unless you have read If I Stay!!! Again, skip to The Bottom Line for my thoughts. There WILL be spoilers in the text of this review!!!

Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Copyright 2011
Dutton Books - Young Adult
272 pages
Release Date: April 5, 2011

If you read If I Stay and enjoyed it, you will definitely want to read on. Where She Went is even better. Three years have gone by since the tragic accident that changed Mia's life forever.

When I saw there was a sequel to If I Stay, I wondered if Mia had chosen to live or die. It could have gone either way. A sequel could easily have taken her to a spiritual world or she could have become a ghost who helped Adam find new love, hence the bold spoiler warnings. I think it's best not to know in advance how If I Stay ends.

But since you've read it, you know she chose to live. Now, we find out that Mia walked out of Adam's life; eventually, the author reveals her reasons, but you're kept in suspense for the majority of the book.

Adam has gone on to become a rock star with a celebrity girlfriend. Mia is a rising star at Juilliard and is getting set to go on her first tour. While Adam is in New York, he sees a poster about Mia's debut and quietly shows up to see her perform. But, Adam is too well-known to sneak out unnoticed and Mia finds him. Thrown together for the first time in three years, Mia and Adam spend all evening and the next day together, exploring Mia's favorite sites in her new home, revisiting their mutual grief and rekindling their romance. But, both of them are scheduled to tour the world and they're going in opposite directions. Now that Mia and Adam have found each other, can they work out a relationship? Or is this goodbye for good?

The Bottom Line - Where She Went is told from Adam's viewpoint and the differing perspective gives the story told in the two books a fullness that would likely have been missing, had the sequel continued in Mia's voice. Like If I Stay, I found Where She Went utterly impossible to put down. Because Adam loved Mia's family and shared in her grief but had to grieve in silence, he's really kind of a wreck and you can't help but hope they'll at least resolve whatever caused the rift between them so that Adam will be able to move on. But the story is better than that, so much better. It is equally emotional and stunningly satisfying. For those who have read If I Stay, Where She Went is not to be missed. Again, the book contains sexuality and language, so I'd say it's a PG-13. I'm anxious to find out what else Gayle Forman has written.

In other news:

I mentioned that I'll have less time for blogging. We've got not one but two family weddings coming up, this summer. I mentioned needing to get in shape for the weddings to a friend, L. L told me she attends a local gym with dance aerobics classes, including Zumba, and my ears perked up. She invited me to go as her guest and I had such fun I immediately signed up for a 6-month membership.

The anecdote that goes with this tale:

At Bible study, last night, I asked one of the women who routinely goes on mission trips about the upcoming mission. The timing is all wrong, so I can't go but she mentioned the meetings and said feel free to come if you want to plan ahead for next year. L said, "Oh, we can't come that day. We have to dance," and I laughed and said it's true, we've got to groove. That perked up another woman's ears and there may soon be three of us grooving together. What fun!

So, the blogging thing:

Well, I'll just get to it when I can. There may be times that I'll need to write a week's worth of mini reviews. If so, I think I'll attempt to write them as separate posts unless I'm so pressed for time that I need to combine a few for the sake of catching up. I haven't had much reading time, lately, so that's kept me from falling too far behind on reviews. And, I'm just not going to kill myself trying to keep up, for now. If I have time to read and review, great. If not, I'll get to it when I get to it.

A Cat Tale:

Isabel jumped into the tub and chased her tail, one day (fortunately, when there was no water in the tub) and that night I dreamed that she jumped in the tub and it was filled with blue water, so as she chased her tail she turned her white fur blue. It took me a while to figure out where the blue bit came from. Husband had painted a second coat on the office walls, that day, and I'd been slightly worried that the cats, who watched in utter fascination as the paint roller went up and down, would end up rubbing against the wall and come away covered in blue paint. They didn't; both girls were actually very well behaved and didn't get in the way or into the paint.

I have a Kiddo anecdote to share, but this post is getting a bit long, so I'll save it for another day. Happy Reading!

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. I have Where She Went and need to get hold of If I Stay so I can read them that way too.

  2. Kathy,

    I really think that's often the best way to read a YA series. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. I thought the first story was really thought-provoking and the second was a very satisfying conclusion.

  3. I love the sound of these two books, and can imagine that I would get caught up in them rather quickly. It does sound as though they address some tough issues, but the fact that the book explores these with a sense of hope really sold me on them. This was a great double review and I am looking forward to trying these out for myself. Thanks for sharing your very perceptive thoughts with us!

  4. Zibilee,

    It's easy to get caught up in the first book and then, of course, you'll want to know what happens after Mia makes her important decision. The author didn't originally intend to write a sequel, though, so the first book stands alone. It's just that the characters wouldn't let go of her, thank goodness. I loved the way the sequel ended.

  5. Will you stop??? I don't need another book to add to the list!! I was doing just fine, thinking that I had read If I Stay and there wouldn't be another. But rats, you've gone and tempted me again. Stop it, I say! (JK - great review, and thank you for the careful spoiler warnings. You are great that way!)

    Congrats on the commitment to trying to find better health. It's hard work, but motivation can work wonders. TWO weddings?? How did you get so lucky? Two years ago our daughter got married in february, one son got married on Mother's Day and then another got married in Vegas over Fall Break. It was an awesome year. Keep us posted.

    (If you need any help, ideas, support - anything, just name it!)

  6. Inside a Book,

    Thanks for the smiles! I live to corrupt the booklovers of the world. LOL Seriously, though, both books were one-evening reads because I couldn't put them down. If I Stay really was complete, in and of itself, and yet the full story is so much better when you hear what happens later. I hate it when someone spoils a book, so I try to remember to always put up spoiler warnings. Sometimes, I do screw up.

    Oh, thanks. I have been so unmotivated, even after finally perking up when I found out I was anemic and then got going with the iron. Official wedding dates were just what I needed to drag myself out of bed and get moving. It's going to take a heck of a lot of grooving and other stuff to get myself into shape, but I really don't have anything to do, wedding-wise but get myself fit. I'm mother of the groom. That's the easy role! LOL The other wedding is my niece, so I'll just be a happy aunt in a pew. Hopefully, not a happy, fat aunt.

    Wow, you had quite a year, didn't you? My kids are 7 years apart in age, which is nice in some ways. One college education was paid for before the other started and I doubt Kiddo will marry anytime soon, so we won't have back-to-back weddings, like you did!

  7. You know what was the most powerful moment for me when reading If I Stay, when her grandfather is in the hospital with her. Oh man, tears I tell you! I skipped over your review of the sequel for now. I really want to read it!

    Have fun with zumba. I want to try that one day. Looks like fun and anything that can help me get to the gym is a good thing :)

  8. Iliana,

    Yep, that was definitely a touching/teary moment for me, too. You absolutely must read the sequel, since you've read If I Stay. It's hard, at first, because you don't want what's happened to have happened but then you find out the reasons. Vague enough for ya? LOL

    Zumba is great! There are so many people crammed into the room that some of the participants come early to "claim a square" (a tile about 4' wide) in which to dance. Nobody cares, though. We all have such fun that it doesn't matter how crowded the class is.

  9. I just finished reading If I Stay this week, and I can't wait for the sequel. I was so disappointed to see that none of the 18 libraries in our consortium has it on order yet, so it could be months before I get to read it (or I might just have to break down and buy a copy). :)

  10. Alyce,

    Our library is so slow that I used to find most of the books I wanted to read remaindered before they made it to the library shelves. It can be frustrating, but after a while I just got used to waiting 6 months, a year or more for a title I wanted to read to either come out in paperback, end up remaindered or finally show up. Can you nudge your library to order a copy? Some people do that. I haven't tried, since I know my library has a very limited budget (hence the putt...putt...putt rate -- it would help if I liked "popular" fiction, but I don't).

  11. I have heard a lot about these books recently, so have If I Stay waiting at the library for me currently.

  12. Marg,

    I had almost convinced myself I wasn't going to read If I Stay and then a friend read it and Where She Went popped up on Shelf Awareness and I thought . . . why not? I'm so glad I changed my mind. Mia's story is tragic but it's not depressing. It's the downers that I prefer to avoid and I think both books are also a bit uplifting. Anyway, babble babble. I hope you enjoy If I Stay!

  13. I have Where She Went on my hold list at the library and I can't WAIT for it! I loved If I Stay.

  14. Lisa,

    I was surprised how much I liked If I Stay, having heard it was a rough read. I found it much more uplifting than I expected and loved Where She Went even more. I hope you love it, too!

  15. If I Stay is a beautiful story. It's heartbreaking, yet funny at times. The writing to me was incredible. Forman wrote this story in a way that just grabbed you and didn't let go. I felt that I knew the characters, that I was feeling what they were feeling. I felt Mia's anguish. I felt that I was right there with Mia as she decided if she should stay or she should go. I laughed and I cried. It's been a few weeks since I finished this and it stuck with me. It's definitely one of those books you'll think about for a long time.


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