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If I Stay
By Gayle Forman
ISBN: 9780142415436
Publisher: Speak, an imprint of the Penguin Group
Date of Publication: 2009

Where She Went
By Gayle Forman
ISBN: 9780142420898
Publisher: Speak, an imprint of the Penguin Group
Date of Publication: 2011

Special Note:
I had thought of doing a separate review for these two books but I felt that since they are so closely connected to each other, I should treat these two novels as one complete story. Hence the double feature review.

Reader’s Annotation:
If I Stay: When a tragic accident leaves Mia Hall in a coma, she must decide if she must live or die, stay or go.

Where She Went: In the aftermath of Mia’s decision, Adam Wilde must come to terms with the accident and his place in Mia’s life.

Plot Summary: If I Stay
Mia Hall has a great life. Her parents are supportive and she loves her younger brother. She’s been accepted to Julliard and she’s in love with a wonderful boyfriend. All of this changes one snowy morning when Mia’s family is torn apart in a tragic car accident. Now Mia must contemplate a new life where everything is different.

As Mia reels from this new reality, she spends a day contemplating her past and considers her future. If she leaves this new life, she would be free from the inevitable heartache. If Mia stays, she must face a different future than she once imagined.

Plot Summary: Where She Went
Three years after Mia’s car accident, Adam Wilde is a successful rock star. Yet, despite his fame, Adam is still attached to his memories of his first love. By chance, Adam and Mia meet once again in New York City. From that chance encounter, Adam and Mia begin to connect once again, walking through the city as they look back at their past and their future. Will this random chance lead to a second opportunity for happiness?

Critical Evaluation:
Gayle Forman’s tale of love, death, and reconciliation was an enthralling read. Forman places a lot of love in the characters, which provides the reader with the means of an honest connection to the story. The story does delve into more mature themes for the second book, which is understandable in that the characters are in their early-twenties. It doesn’t distract from the story but enhances the natural evolution of the characters.

The story is a great showcase for young readers in that it provides an understanding that not all relationships are perfect. Relationships work best when each party involved are confident in themselves before they give love to another. Mia and Adam’s struggle in finding themselves in the midst of tragedy and success feels genuine in that Forman never forgets to show that these characters are still very human and feel pain and joy like the reader.

Audio Evaluation:
The method in which I read these two books was through an audiobook. The audiobook editions were fun in that both narrators gave great performances. I found myself enthralled with the manner in which the book was read, ignoring my surroundings until I could get to the end. I would highly recommend the audio versions of these books, though be careful where you listen as parts will induce tears.

If I Stay was read by Kirsten Potter

Where She Went was read by Dan Bittner

Information about the Author:
From Gayle Forman’s Website, Gayle began her writing career at Seventeen magazine and branched out to freelance work with other magazines such as  Cosmopolitan and The Nation. After traveling the world with her husband, Forman began to write stories for a younger audience. Her first book, Sisters in Sanity, was published in 2007. Her next two books, If I Stay and Where She Went, were published in 2009 and 2011 respectively. Forman’s next two books are scheduled for publication towards the beginning and end of 2013.

Gayle Forman on Twitter

Gayle Forman on Facebook

Genre:
Realistic Fiction, Romance, Death and Dying

Curriculum Ties:
Family Relationships, Near Death Situations

Booktalking Ideas:
What role does music play in your life?
How has your family impacted your life?

Reading Level/Interest Age:
While the material is given a listing on Amazon for ages 14 and up, I would agree with the Kirkus Reivew that the material should be for older teens, specially for the second book with its more mature themes.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for either book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Potential issues would include sexual situations, after-death discussions, and the use of substance abuse in the second book.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I picked this book up on a whim while browsing the YA selection at the Kensington/Normal Heights Branch. I instantly fell in love with both the writing style and the storyline. I visited the material once again when I discovered there was a sequel to the book, which was a wonderful compliment to the first.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). Where She Went: Gayle Forman. Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Where-She-Went-Gayle-Forman/dp/0142420891

Kirkus Review. (2010). If I Stay by Gayle Forman. Kirkus Review. Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/gayle-forman/if-i-stay/

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