If I Stay/Where She Went Book Review
[Note: This Review contains major spoilers]
Although the major motion picture If I Stay recently made $50,000,000 while in theatres, the book is arguably worth double that! If I Stay, written by Gale Forman, is narrated by a young Mia Hall, who is an extremely gifted cellist. The story begins at the end, with her slowly dying. While she is making her decision to stay or go, Mia takes us on flashbacks of her life, which gets us to understand her family dynamic, and how she met Adam, her boyfriend and Kim, her best friend. By the end of the novel, we have heard every story that has brought her to make her final choice.
Mia Hall was born into her family rock band, but wasn’t interested in her parents’ hard core music. Ever since she was young, she was fascinated with the cello, an instrument that weighed three times more than she did. Eventually she grew to be a phenomenal musician, practicing eight hours a day, and taking independent study at her high school in order to hone her craft. However, Mia’s best friend Kim points out that a popular rocker in their school, Adam, has been watching her play.
Adam starts to make conversation with Mia, and invites her to a YO-YO MA concert, which was Mia’s favorite cellist. This is when they decide to start dating, and fall madly in love. But unfortunately, their paths start heading in different directions two years later, when Mia applies to Julliard, and Adams band ‘Shooting Star’ starts touring the country. This causes a lot of tension and frustration between the two of them, considering they hardly saw each other, and were a part of separate crowds. During this rough patch, Mia’s family is driving to visit their grandparents on a snowy day, and get in a terrible car accident. Kat and Denny, Mia’s parents, die immediately. Teddy, Mia’s younger brother is taken to the hospital, but later bleeds internally and dies as well. This leaves Mia as the only surviving member of the Hall family. Although this is tragic enough, Mia is able to exist outside of her body and observe what is happening around her during the critical 24 hours after the wreck.This leads Mia to decide whether or not she wants to die, and live on with her family, or stay with Adam, Kim, her grandma and grandpa, and her Cello. The doctors tell her that everything is up to her at this point. She runs the show. After contemplating her decision through the entire book, Adam visits her in the ICU stating that he would do anything and everything to have Mia stay. He even writes her a song and promises to quit the band to follow her to Julliard. With this, Mia decided to stay living.
If I Stay has a perfect ending, leaving you to assume that they dealt with their grief together, and became a stronger couple than ever. Therefore, Where She Went, is a punch in the face to the reader.
This time, Adam narrates the story, and a lot has changed in the last three years. The sequel is told in the same format, starting at the end. However, he tells all of the missing pieces of what happened after the accident through flashbacks. We learn that Adam broke up with Mia. Once she was rehabilitated, she went off to Julliard, and insisted that Adam go continue Shooting Stars tours and recordings. She led him on to believe that they would stay together, but she eventually cut off all communication with him. Adam was devastated, and sat in his room, depressed, for almost a full year. He tried to contact her in every way, but she refused. Finally enough was enough, and Adam took his anger out in his music. He wrote ten brilliant songs all in one night, about Mia leaving him like a ghost. It was as if she died. These songs turned out to be the bands biggest hits, taking them from a college band, to world wide famous rock stars. Yet Adam is still miserable. He starts drinking, doing drugs, and taking far too many pills. His life is so empty without Mia, and the fact that all of the songs written about her made them famous drove him crazy! But one night, before Adam was flown out of the country to start his tour, he sees a poster in New York City, advertising Mia Hall, the classical music extraordinaire. She is having a one night only concert. Adam gets one of the last tickets available, and watches her perform. He figures just hearing her play may give him closure. She somehow spots him in the audience, and asks for him to meet her backstage. This leads to them seeing each other for the first time in three years.
They spend the whole night together, sight seeing, and catching up on lost time. Eventually Adam gets the courage to ask why she abandoned him out of the blue. This leads to a blow out fight, where Mia says that she hated Adam, because he made her stay. It would have been so much easier for her to die with her family, but she didn’t. He was the person she loved the most, and so all of the blame had to land on him.
I would give this book series an eight out of ten. Although it is written very basically, the storyline is beautiful, and the flashbacks are complex. I learned a lot from both novels, and was overly emotional while reading them. I would suggest If I Stay and Where She Went to anyone. They are fantastic novels that will make you appreciate your life. You will regret not reading them!