Earlier this week I read If I Stay and the sequel Where She Went, by Gayle Forman. Both books were stay-up-way-to-late, read-in-one-sitting books for me. While both books, especially the first one, have plots that are designed to create an incredible amount of tension it was the plot that kept me reading. It was the characters. I fell in love with almost all of them.
In If I Stay Mia seems to have a perfect life. Her parents are former punk rockers who don’t care what she and her dreamy, musician boyfriend do when they’re alone in her room, but they also support her dream to study playing the cello at Juilliard. She has a best friend who will do anything for her and a little brother she loves more than anything. But a car crash changes all of that (don’t worry this is on the back of the book so it’s not a spoiler!) and suddenly Mia is faced with a decision. Lying in an ICU bed she has to decide if she will stay or if she will go: if she will live and if she will die. While she’s making the decision, the narrative jumps between memories from her life, family stories from before the was born, and her ability to see her friends and family reacting to the car accident in the hospital lobby. Even though the family dynamic is quite strong, the real center of the story is her romance with Adam and their shared love of music.
With a plot like this, I would have thought that the thing that would keep me reading would be trying to find out what Mia chooses. However, it was wanting to know more about Adam and Mia’s love story that kept me turning pages. It isn’t a perfect love story. There are bumps and flaws and tense moments in their relationship. But their story felt very alive. I think part of that comes from both of them having individual and intense passions of their own. Both of them seem to love music equally or more than the other person. It bonds them together, but also makes Mia worry that it will break them apart.
I’m not going to tell you about the ending, or too much about the sequel because I hope you will read the books for yourselves. I will say that Where She Went is told from Adam’s perspective and shows him dealing with Mia’s decision.
I highly suggest you read these books before the movie comes out and before you watch the film trailer. Pro tip: have a box of tissues beside you when you start reading. Yes, it is sweet, romantic, and unique. But it also has a high likelihood of making you want to bawl your eyes out.