Gayle Forman's If I Stay was easily one of my favorite books from 2009. Like The Lovely Bones, it takes place it is told from the point of view of a protagonist that is removed from the action. In this case it is teenage Mia, lying in a coma after an car accident that takes the lives of her two amazing parents and lovely little brother Teddy. In this in-between state, she tries to decide if life is worth living without the people she just lost. What would her life be like without her parents, and without Teddy? As she grapples with this, her boyfriend Adam comes to visit her in the hospital and tells her to stay.
I'm obviously not doing justice to the elegance of the storytelling by merely regurgitating the plot, but you need to know what happened in book one to understand Where She Went, which comes out in April 2011. Where She Went is told from Adam's point of view, and takes place a few years later. Mia, a brilliant cellist at the time of the accident, has just finished Julliard and is playing a concert in New York City. Meanwhile, Adam, the lead singer and lyricist of the alternative rock band Shooting Star, is about to head off on a worldwide tour, but is spending the night in New York City. On impulse, he goes to see Mia play. Because he is now a celebrity, she gets word that he's at her performance and has her "people" find him.
What follows is a middle of the night wandering through New York City that reminds me very much of the movie Before Sunset, where two people that used to be in love meet up sort of by chance and wander through Paris. In that movie, the couple is older (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in their late 30's), but the sentiments are the same. There's so much that Adam wants to know about the disintegration of his relationship with Mia, so many gaps to be filled in. Forman took just the right approach in filling in the gaps for the reader too, with chapters skipping between the past and the present, but never in a confusing way. I loved traveling through those circles, getting to understand and remember again why I loved Adam and Mia so much in If I Stay.
I don't want to give away any more of the book, but let it be known that I devoured this one on Sunday afternoon, after keeping it in my to-read pile expressly for that purpose. Gayle Forman is one of my favorite writers, and this book does not disappoint. She has such a keen ability to show love and all the ways it makes people behave irresponsibly and regrettably. On top of that, this is a story about the love of music and for once, the author actually understands what bands a musician would actually like! (Note, it is not necessarily the bands the author likes unless the author has some kind of indie music cred!)
Because I am an in-the-box person, I am giving this one a 4. It is quite good, but also not the absolutely best book I've ever read (I'm very choosy with my 5s).