Yes, it has taken me a ridiculously long time to get around to reading these books. I have a reason though. My family being in a devastating car crash leaving one of my kids on their own is one of those things that while I don't go in constant fear of it does haunt every road trip we take. I knew coming at If I Stay from a mother's perspective was going to not be entirely pleasant. And it wasn't. It is a really good book. I read both If I Stay and Where She Went in the same day and, let me tell you these books make you FEEL. I went through so many emotions. Gayle Forman can write for sure.
If I Stay Synopsis (from Goodreads):
In a single moment,
everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the
accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with
her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own
damaged body is taken from the wreck...A sophisticated, layered,
and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and
friends, the choices we all make, and the ultimate choice Mia commands.
I was impressed by Forman's tight control of her narrative in this book. It opens up with a scene depicting Mia's close and lively family. By the time they are in the car and on their way to their destination you feel like you know them. Which is what makes what comes next particularly awful. The descriptive prose she uses and the way she describes Mia's reactions build up tension. The story flies by in a blur for a while as Mia hovers somewhere between life and death, not really a part of her body. As the story progresses the narrative moves between Mia's memories of her life and what is happening in the present. The tension in the story is near pitch perfect. It's extremely emotive. You can't help but feel Mia's fear, anger, regret and anxiety. As a mother myself I kept wanting to tell her to LIVE, but at the same time reading her story I could understand why she might not want to.
Then there's Adam. Oh my. I have to admit that I thought he was a little too perfect at times. The most amazing boyfriend a girl could never find in high school. Cause they don't really exist at that age. I couldn't help but love him though, because Mia loved him yes but also because he is pretty darn lovable. And then I finished the book (which is only 200 pages) and started the Where She Went and fell in love with Adam simply for himself.
WARNING: IF YOU MAY NOT WANT TO READ THE REST OF THIS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST BOOK.
Where She Went Synopsis (from Goodreads):
It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever. Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam
is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity
girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings
the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city
that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their
hearts to the future-and each other.
Let me just say, Gayle Forman has some skills. Right after reading a book from Mia's point of view and feeling sympathetic and protective of her I start reading this from Adam's point of view three years later and it took no time at all for me to sort of hate Mia. Not sort of. I was really mad. So mad I wondered if I should even bother to keep reading because really. How could this end well? I trusted all the people out there who have recommended these books and plunged on.
Adam. Not so perfect, but still awesome. Even more so with the flaws. And oh so messed up. For much of the book I felt like a witness to a train wreck happening in slow motion. This book has an entirely different sort of tension and telling the story from Adam's point of view completely was a brilliant move. Mia is the distant one, despite having known her from the first book. She has grown and changed and isn't the same girl from before. She is hard to figure out. The reader ends up experiencing Adam's emotional confusion exactly. This girl whose every intimate secret we knew before-who is she?
I don't want to give away anything about the end. I'm just going to say sometimes I like books that end just this way. Sometimes it is what I'm in the mood for and I read this book on the perfect day for it.