Review: If I Stay and Where She Went

If I Stay                                                      
Gayle Forman
Dutton Books
2009
978-0-525-42103-0                              

Where She Went
Gayle Forman
Dutton Books
2011
978-0-525-42294-5

I read these two books back-to-back, and unfortunately didn’t enjoy them equally. If I Stay is the story of Mia, a teenage girl whose family has just been killed in a car accident. Mia herself is in critical condition, and she has a sort of out-of-body experience in which she can observe herself lying a hospital bed and see and hear everything going on around her. She has a difficult decision to make – to live, knowing how terrible life will be without her family, or to die and save herself the pain of living without them. I don’t often cry over books, but this one brought tears to my eyes. I know how it feels to lose a parent, but not to lose two parents and a brother so suddenly and at such a young age. Forman’s novel is beautifully written, and her characters are very engaging.

If you haven’t read If I Stay, you should probably skip the rest of this post since it contains spoilers.

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As much as I loved If I Stay, I didn’t have the same feelings about Where She Went. This book is told from Mia’s high school boyfriend Adam’s point of view. At the end of If I Stay, Adam pleads with Mia to come back to him, promising to let her leave Oregon without a fight and go off to Julliard if that’s what she needs, so long as she’s still alive. Mia apparently takes up him on this offer. When she leaves for New York, she never comes back, and eventually stops talking to Adam altogether with no explanation. Where She Went is set three years after If I Stay, and we learn through flashbacks how Adam and Mia’s relationship fell apart. It isn’t until the end of the book that we really find out why Mia broke things off with no explanation, and after all that lead-in, her reasons felt weak to me. I liked Mia a lot in If I Stay, and I hard time reconciling that Mia with the Mia who just left Adam with no explanation. I found the pacing of this book a bit slow as well, and it wasn’t until the last hundred pages or so that I really got interested. While this book demonstrates that relationships are complicated and can change as you get older, I think I would have been perfectly happy just reading the first book.

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