Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yay for YA double feature: If I Stay and Where She Went

Dear reader, I am sorry for my lack of posts this summer.  I have been reading (or listening to) plenty of books, but I haven't had the time to sit down and write reviews about them.  The school/public library where I started working last month is one of the busiest libraries I've ever worked at.  It is staffed by three people, serves a county of over 9,000, and interlibrary loans like crazy.  I really need to get a new camera, and bring it to work with me, so I can photograph the stacks of books waiting to go hither and yon, waiting for our patrons to pick them up or for the delivery system to take them away.

My shift on Monday is devoted to summer reading, and that's been amazing.  We had a visit from the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, complete with an inflatable starlab.  (That was cool when I was a kid, and still is cool for me as an adult.)  A couple weeks ago, an author visited, and a few days ago, we had a paleontologist give a presentation.  Next year, I suppose I'll be the one scheduling all these special events.  Oh, my.

Anyway!  This is supposed to be a double feature review of Gayle Forman's books, If I Stay and its sequel, Where She Went.  Let's get to that.

(All stats are for the charter school's library.)

Checkouts: 6
Typical reader: Middle school/teen girls
Source: Follett

Synopsis: One wintry day, Mia and her family go for a car ride, which ends up being her parents' and brother's last.   Mia watches the aftermath unfold around her comatose body in an out-of-body experience, and realizes she has to make a decision to stay in this life or die.

My Goodreads rating: 5 stars

Checkouts: Coming this fall to the library
Typical reader: People who loved the first book and want to know what happens next
Source: A giveaway by Authors Are Rockstars!

Synopsis: Adam, Mia's former boyfriend, tries to cope with all that life has in store for him three years after she unexpectedly left him.

My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

If I Stay is an incredibly emotional book.  Mia has a great life and wonderful family, and it all gets smashed in a car accident not far into the book.  Her parents are instantly killed.  She sees herself lying on the snow-dusted side of the road, and from there has a heart-wrenching journey as her comatose body goes through surgeries and hospitals, and her remaining family and friends struggle with loss and hope.  The book is filled with beautiful memories of her awesome, loving parents, her sweet little brother, her teen romance with Adam, and much more.

And then she learns (*SPOILER*) that her little brother died.  If you read the dust jacket/back cover, you knew it was coming.  But it's a fair way into the book, and I feel a little bad including that detail, but it was on the cover, and it's one of the main catalysts that cause Mia to think twice about where she wants to be.  Living without Teddy and their parents seems awful - but at the same time, her friends and Adam are doing everything possible to see her and encourage her to stay.

This book is powerful.  I don't think it's just because I finished it a couple weeks ago, that I'm grasping fruitlessly for any criticism I could offer.  It's an excellent book that has rightfully earned acclaim for being a quick read that reluctant readers could get into.  Book clubs have flocked to it for good reason.  It even made me look up medical terminology to better understand some things mentioned in the book.  Fiction that leads me to learn something gets kudos.

Where She Went continues the story from Adam's perspective.  I didn't enjoy it as much, because it was jarring to go from Mia's narrative to his - I hadn't read the cover, but plunged right in after finishing If I Stay.  The first book is a tough act to follow.

This second book seems like it's better suited to young adults than to the original audience.  There are themes that teens can't relate to as well as college students and older 20-somethings could.  What those themes are, I cannot say, because I'm certainly not going to give away how the first book ended, or what led to the events of the second book.  Ha, you'll just have to read it on your own.

Ms. Forman's duology is a very fine set of work.


  1. Sounds like some pretty heavy stuff. It's nice to see YA novels that address serious topics.

    Oh, and with regards to getting photos of the library/books, you can borrow my camera if you need to.

  2. If I Stay is heartbreaking but wonderful. It feels so real. I still need to read Where She Went.