If I Stay and Where She Went, by Gayle Forman, receives a lot of love in the blogosphere. I'd heard that they were tearjerkers and beautifully written. They definitely had a lot to live up to, and while they fell slightly short of my expectations after all the hype, they were definitely moving novels.
In If I Stay, Mia, a gifted cellist, is in a devastating car accident with her family. While in a coma, she is given the decision to live or die. While pondering this decision, she explores memories of her family, her love of music, and her relationship with her boyfriend, Adam.
If I Stay is gorgeously, gorgeously written. The novel isn't very long, but every scene is packed with emotion and vivid details. Mia's voice is powerful and distinct. The snapshots of Mia's life before the accident are organized in such a way to pull our heartstrings -- so I'm not sure why mine were so resilient. I liked the story, and intellectually I knew it was heartbreaking and beautiful, but something kept me from fully engaging.
Warnings: Sensuality, language
Where She Went takes place three years after If I Stay, and is told from Adam's point of view. Despite the strong relationship described in If I Stay, Mia is no longer a part of Adam's life, and he is completely wrecked. Now a famous rockstar, the glittering surface of his life conceals turmoil and an inability to connect with anyone. However, one night Adam has the chance to revisit his relationship with Mia and try to find answers to why things happened the way they did.
I'm not sure if it was the fact that I liked Adam's voice better than Mia's, the fact that this story was told somewhat more in "real time" than If I Stay, or if it just takes me a while to warm up to a series, but Where She Went impressed me much more than If I Stay. I felt for Adam, even when he was making stupid decisions. I was also much more eager to find out how everything played out -- the ending of If I Stay was somewhat predictable for me, but I had no idea how Where She Went would be finished.
Warnings: Same as If I Stay
Both books are incredibly well-written, and while I didn't have the emotional experience I had anticipated with If I Stay, both books were well worth my time. I am looking forward to reading Gayle Forman's future work.