Sunday, May 20, 2012

If I Stay & Where She Went

by Gayle Forman
Stay - Dutton | April 2, 2009 (paperback - Speak/Penguin April 2010) 
Went - Dutton | April 5, 2011 (paperback - Speak/Penguin April 2012)

Mia has a perfect family. Her mom and dad are both ex-punk-rockers who have their acts together. She has a little brother named Teddy who she loves. She is a talented cellist and just applied to Julliard. Her boyfriend Adam's Portland, Oregon-based band is growing in popularity and success. Everything seems to fit just right.

And then there's a snow day. "It isn't even an inch, but in this part of Oregon a slight dusting brings everything to a standstill," Mia tells the reader in the second paragraph. A family drive goes terribly awry and Mia's family is gone in a flash and her own life hangs in the balance. The balance is between staying or going - and it seems Mia has some choice. As her body lies in the hospital, Mia is walking around, listening in on conversations about her and her family, spending time with her friend Kim and boyfriend Adam as they try to gain entry to the ICU unit. Through flashbacks, Mia fills in all the blanks for the reader, explaining her hopes and dreams, her relationships, and her bleak-looking future.

Adam clutches her hand and begs her to stay. "Stay...If you stay, I'll do whatever you want." And for the first time, Mia squeezes back. She stays.

Forman writes a heart-wrenching novel that was a 2010 Teen Choice selection that poses the question of what happens when everything is taken. And she comes back a year later in the sequel to Mia's story, told in the first person by Adam. It's three years later, and Adam is a true rock star, but tortured. It's been three whole years since he's seen Mia and his life is less meaningful without her.

After a chance meeting in New York City the night before Adam is meant to embark on a sixty-seven city tour with the band, he and Mia spend a night wandering the streets, re-learning each other, and figuring out what might be next.

The books together are a satisfying pair. Adam's voice is a little too whiny at times, but Mia is such a likeable, believable character, it makes up for it. Mia stayed, and then went. And Adam found her.

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