I first read If I Stay & Where She Went by Gayle Forman a few years ago and was absolutely blown away. This story was the most gut wrenching, heartbreaking, and emotionally provoking story I'd ever read and that's still true today. One thing I loved (and hated) about these books was that I couldn't tell how they would end. Of course, I had in my head what I wanted to happen, but I wasn't sure whether or not it actually would. Oftentimes, when I read a book, there are certain things I can expect, such as the main character won't die, love will prevail in the end, etc. However, with If I Stay and Where She Went, I couldn't be sure. The very nature of the subject matter proved that life isn't fair and I was sure that was true not only of life in general, but in the life of the book as well. These books could break those "rules" because the story was told in a painfully honest way.
I vividly remember devouring each book in one sitting apiece, laying on my couch with tears streaming down my face. I was an emotional mess and I don't usually cry when reading. The way Gayle Forman got into these characters' heads was utterly believable and fantastic. I could feel all the emotions right with them. She tapped into such a delicate and emotionally riveting experience with care and sensitivity. When I say I was emotionally unbalanced for days, I'm not exaggerating.
Given the powerful experience it was to read these stories, one told from Mia's point of view, the other from Adam's, I was wary of picking them up again. I absolutely adored the story and appreciated that it didn't end with Mia's choice. We got to follow up on the aftermath as well. But, I wasn't sure I could take a reread, so I've stayed away from them for awhile.
However, when I started hearing the buzz of an If I Stay movie starring my favorite young actress, Chloe Grace Moretz, I knew I needed to revisit them. This time, I chose the audiobook versions. A wise decision.
I'd like to take just a second to marvel at the wondrous production for these audiobooks. I couldn't have been happier with the experience. Kirsten Potter and Dan Bittner were excellent narrators and I felt I was able to experience the books in a whole new way. Maybe it was because I already knew the story or that I listened to these in public, or maybe it was just because I'm in a happier place in my life right now, but I didn't react as intensely to the story this time around, which was a good thing. That's not to say that the audiobook is any less intense, but for me, my own imagination is more intense so the audiobook provided a little bit of distance so I could experience the story without becoming a puddle of goo. That said, I still got the raw emotional experience I was craving.
If you haven't read If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman, do it. Now. If you have, maybe it's time for a reread. I highly recommend the audiobooks for doing so.
Final thoughts: Buy multiple copies. Keep for yourself and pass out to friends.