Welcome to He Said, She Said, a feature for GuysLitWire in which a guy (Book Chic) and a gal (Little Willow) discuss books that will appeal to both genders. Previously, we've discussed novels such as Soulless by Christopher Golden (zombie apocalypse now!) and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Today, we’re discussing Gayle Forman’s connected novels, If I Stay and Where She Went.
LW: If I Stay is the story of Mia, a teenager who slips into a coma after a tragic car accident that kills the rest of her family. She can see those who visit her in the hospital, and she also reflects on her past. How did you feel reading her thoughts?
BC: I really felt like I was reading about a real person. The way Forman sets up the story, moving between the present with Mia watching the people visiting her in the hospital and the past with Mia reminiscing about her life, was a really great way of getting across Mia’s personality and life story. It also shows why it’s such a tough decision for her to stay or go; it isn’t cut and dry. Going through Mia’s life was good too because Forman encapsulated so many different, various memories- happy, sad, funny, embarassing, romantic, etc.- that the reader really gets to know Mia through the book.
LW: I liked getting to know Mia through her memories. Even though I knew the premise of the book before reading the first page, the scene with the accident still hit me hard, and made me wish that it could have been prevented. To then follow the path of the person who would become the sole survivor or the final victim of that tragedy - I think I often held my breath while reading this book because I was so worried that Mia wouldn’t make it. After reading If I Stay, did you think there would/should be a sequel?
BC: I didn’t think there would be a sequel at all. I felt like it ended really well but this isn’t your usual sequel which I think made it work so well.
LW: How do you feel about the sequel principle in general?
BC: I think it’s become the norm in YA. It’s like everything I read is the first in a trilogy and there’s hardly any standalone books anymore. I love spending more time with characters as much as the next bookaholic, but sometimes I just want a book to, y’know, END, and not always be a cliffhanger. I do also think that sometimes there is a need for more than one book but other times, not so much and it can feel like the author is just trying to make a story longer even though it should have just been one book. So essentially, I don’t mind sequels, but I do also like to see standalone books published.
LW: Were you happy with the sequel, Where She Went? Did you like knowing what happened to Mia after the end of If I Stay?
BC: I was really happy with it and thought Forman did a really wonderful job. The switch of POV and taking place three years later was a good decision and it just made sense.
LW: I applaud Gayle Forman for giving Adam a voice of his own. Where She Went can really stand on its own. The narrators of these two books have different personalities, different tones, different priorities, and different interpretations of past events and memories.
BC: I was a bit wary before reading Where She Went because I wasn’t sure if it could be pulled off and if it would be as good as If I Stay was, but I shouldn’t doubt Forman. She’s such a good writer. I did like seeing what happened to Mia afterward and just spending time with her and Adam again even though it was a bit awkward at times, lol.
LW: Where She Went showed us characters we knew as teenagers now a little older, truly young adults. I feel as if there aren’t enough books with narrators of that age. Did you like Adam’s narration?
BC: I did! Forman did a great job writing from Adam’s POV, though at times, I did just want Adam to cheer up, lol. But the reader really gets into his head and sees how much he loves Mia, both now and before the events of If I Stay. It was good to see that perspective.
LW: Both Mia and Adam are musicians. I really wanted to hear them play. Whose music would draw you in first, Mia’s classic cello performances or Adam’s rock band?
BC: Neither really. I’m more of a pop/dance person but if I had to choose, I’d pick Mia. After reading Adam’s lyrics throughout Where She Went, I’m not sure it’s the kind of rock I’d like to listen to. Plus, I do like classical a bit more than rock music.
LW: Try the group Bond. You might like them.
BC: I actually already know about them and LOVE them. I really need to get their new album soon (just found out it got released, lol).
LW: Enjoy the music!
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