Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I put off reading this series forever because of the sads.  I usually avoid books that are going to be overly emotional, full of death and/or dying, ultimately leaving me a big, blubbering mess.  But there's actual casting being done for the movie adaptation for If I Stay, which is a good sign that this movie is going to be a thing. And I despise seeing a movie before I've read the book -- part of the reason I haven't caved to my husband's demands that we watch The Great Gatsby, based on his favorite book and featuring one of his favorite actors.  (I know...I can't believe I haven't read it either, but it wasn't required reading in our honors and AP classes in my high school, so I never made time for it.  Shame on me.)

But I digress.  These books have received their fair share of hype, and after having listened to the audio for both now, I can say the hype is duly earned.  I did shed some tears, but in the end, the feeling I'm left with is hopefulness, not sadness.

Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Narrator:  Kirsten Potter
Series: If I Stay, book #1
Length:  5 hrs 2 mins
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: April 23, 2009
Source: purchased audio
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

Add to Goodreads
The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and the forthcoming Just One Year.

On a day that started like any other...

Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she'll ever make.

Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.

If I Stay is such a poignant story of love and longing and loss.  Yes, I did shed some tears for the characters and their heartbreak, but I didn't resent the story one bit for making me feel these things with such depth. Instead, I applaud the author for having the courage to take this story to places others might have shied away from.

I might be in the minority, but I love the use of flashbacks to tell a complete story, the then and the now. When this technique is employed, I find that it becomes that much easier to understand a character and their get what makes them tick.  I liked Mia's character from the onset, but learning more of her story as she remembered pivotal moments in her life, and seeing how these events ultimately affected her "decision", made me empathize with her in a way that I don't think I could have in the beginning.

Kirsten Potter was a phenomenal choice for the narration of this story.  She did sound a bit more mature than the character's age may have allowed for, but her performance was so heartfelt, her voice breaking when it should.  Her fury at the intolerable cruelty of the decision she was facing after what she'd already endured was palpable.  Potter's recitation of If I Stay was equal parts beautiful and haunting.

As soon as I'd finished the audio for If I Stay, I immediately started the audio for the sequel.  The story was intense and I just couldn't leave it where it ended.  I can't imagine how so many waited two years in between these two books.  It kind of seems right, considering the next book is set three years after the events of If I Stay.  But, yeah, I just couldn't wait that long.

Oh, and in what universe does this book even come close to being comparable to Twilight?  That blurb on the cover of the paperback is just ick.  I wish publishers would stop with that nonsense.

Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Narrator:  Dan Bittner
Series: If I Stay, book #2
Length:  5 hrs 21 mins
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Source: purchased audio
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Audible

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It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

I enjoy a good novel told from the male perspective, and Where She Went is no exception.  I think what makes it even better is that it's Adam's point-of-view...Adam who adored Mia and promised to give up everything, including Mia, if she'd just come back to the world of the living.  Adam, who was forced to keep that promise and has since had to endure three years without Mia.

If I'm being entirely honest, there was a good chance I was going to hate this book if things had continued down the path they were on at the novel's opening.  I know my constant refrain is that I prefer a realistic ending to one of those cookie-cutter ones, but in a case like this, where the characters have already suffered so much, I need a little hope.  Despite the chance encounter in New York, I still wasn't holding out much hope for these two.

Poor Adam hasn't been good to himself or anyone else in his life since Mia's departure left him heartbroken and empty. He's had his successes, but they amount to nothing without Mia to share them with.  He hasn't exactly been lonely in her absence, but it's clear he's never gotten over what happened with Mia.  When a situation like this is written from a male perspective by a female, I always question the legitimacy of the character's behavior.  With Adam, though, knowing what he's been through and what he's still trying to come to terms with, I never doubted that his response was anything but least for him.

Throughout the novel, I yearned for these two characters to reconnect on the level that they had prior to the accident.  I thought my wish was being granted when they undertook their "fairwell to New York tour", but then Adam started acting like such a "guy", and I wasn't sure that they had could ever be repaired.  But my desires for the future of this couple were nothing compared to the longing each of them was holding on to.

If you've listened to the audio for Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls series, you'll probably recognize the narrator of this audiobook as the one she coined as "Sex-on-a-Stick".  Dan Bittner did the voice of Cole in that series, and it's interesting that the character he portrays in both series is a rock musician with some serious issues.  Especially since he does not look the part.  (Yeah, when there's a narrator that's been dubbed "Sex-on-a-Stick", you'd better believe that I've checked out his profile and dug up a picture of him.  :D)  Anyway, he really does justice to this book.  Bittner's voice as Adam is gruff and sexy and genuine and earnest...all rolled into one.  But I think I like Maggie's descriptor better.  =)

If you've not read this series yet, I highly recommend it.  (Actually, I'd probably recommend the audiobooks even more...they're just so well done.  And pretty short, each coming in at just over five hours.)  It's gritty and realistic and ultimately hopeful, and I'm glad I finally caved to the pressure and read/listened to it.  And now that Just One Year is soon to release, I'll be picking up both books in that series, as well.

About the author:

I suppose the short version of this bio could simply read: My name is Gayle Forman and I love to write young-adult novels. Because I do. So thank you for reading them. Because without you, it’d just be me. And the voices in my head.

Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in such publications as Jane, Seventeen, Glamour, Elle, and The New York Times Magazine, to name just a few. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

Find Gayle:

Website | Twitter | FacebookGoodreads


  1. I can also enjoy flashbacks if they are handled with care :) They can really complete a story. And yeay for well-written male POV's!


  2. Great reviews! These books are some of my favorites, and Where She Went never feels to make me feel really heartbroken at times! I'm glad you enjoyed these audiobooks, I will have to check them out!

    -Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

  3. I am definitely going to hunt hi and lo for these audio books! These books are a favourite of mine.

    Thanks for bringing it to my attention, Jen!

  4. Great reviews. I loved If I Stay. I haven't read Where She Went, but it sounds like I really need to. And pick the audiobook over the written version. I love a good narrator.

  5. OMG I know! The Twilight thing on the cover really got to me. If I had just picked the book randomly off the shelf and saw that, I would have probably put it back. Fortunately, I'd heard so many great things about it already, but still. Nothing like Twilight.

    Oh, and I haven't read Gatsby, either. I feel like a horrible English major/future English teacher, but it was just never assigned. I'm planning to read it eventually, though, if only because I'll probably have to teach it one day. :)

  6. The audio was a great way to finally tackle this series & catch up with everyone else.

  7. I chose to go the audio route with If I Stay as well. I really enjoyed it. For some reason I haven't read Where She Went yet. I don't really have a reason for that... so maybe I should download the audio and get on it! I like that they're shorter-than-normal audios, at only 5+ hours. After listening to so many 10+ hour books in a row, it's nice to mix it up with a shorter one now and then. :)

  8. It's great to see people enjoying these two books. I thought they were amazing and I didn't listen to the audiobooks, but they sound very well done. I also hated the Twilight mention on If I Stay's cover because it is nothing like Twilight at all.

  9. I'm so glad you enjoyed these. These two books are all-time favorites for me. Nice reviews!


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