Az’s CBR-III Review #9: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
Where to begin with Jessica Darling? Is it that she is smarter and wittier by far than most tenage heroines? Is it the level of angst? I don’t know. All I know is that I ripped through this book, laughing and crying as if I were 13 and not middle aged. This book is simply amazing. Okay, so Jessica Darling is the proverbial good girl with a bitter streak. Her father calls her “Notso” as in “not so Darling”. She is suffering from the loss of her best friend and soulmate Hope whose parents have moved her away following the death of Hope’s brother Heath from an overdose. Jessica is left adrift and lonely and even more bitter. How is she supposed to deal with her world when her only source of support is gone? Jessica must learn to navigate school – where she feels out of place- and home – where she feels even more out of place- by herself. Her only confidant is her journal and what she writes in it is by turns, mortifying, hilarious and poignant. And then there is Marcus Flutie… This book is a classic (not just a YA classic) for a reason: the dilemmas and heartaches of its heroine are universal and everyone will find something to which they can relate in it. I cannot wait to share this book with my daughter in a couple of years. It is just wonderful.
Az’s CBR-III Review #6: Where she went by Gayle Forman
Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay. This time, the story is told from the viewpoint of Adam, Mia’s boyfriend. Basically it travels the 3 years from when Mia woke up from her coma to the present. There were many unexpected developments in this sequel. I’m not planning to spoil any of them because all the discoveries made in this book are actually what propel the story along. I really have to tip my hat to Gayle Foreman for not turning this into your run-of-the-mill recovery from accident, love story plot. Another aspect of the book that I loved as well are the inclusion of Adam’s lyrics. What could have been a cliched sampling of teenage emotions actually reads as honest, bitter emotion… these lyrics are plausible. Yes, Adam is a tad emo, whiny and needy. And Mia is a little too well-adjusted at times. But this is a rarity among books: a wonderful, well written, well thought out sequel that is not only the perfect companion to its predecessor but also provides the perfect amount of closure and, the cherry on top of the sundae is that it doesn’t disappoint. Gayle Foreman has written another outstanding story. One last recommendation: bring a boxful of tissues, you are going to need them.
Az’s CBR-III Review #4: If I stay by Gayle Forman
I have recently become slightly obsessed with YA books and as a result ended up reading books that I would have probably missed. This would have been a shame, because these are some excellent books. One of the best is If I Stay.
The premise is simple: Mia is a gifted cello player, has a wonderful, quirky family and a close best friend. And there is Adam. Adam is the boyfriend, a rocker who seems to have nothing in common with Mia except for their love of music and of each other. There are also supporting players Mia’s best friend. Family friends. Grandparents. The emphasis on the beginning of the book is on how close the family is and how much they love each other. In one second, Mia’s life is shattered as there is a terrible car accident. She finds herself on the side of the road looking at what remains of her family and of herself.
From this point on it’s all about choice, Mia’s corporeal body lies unconscious and mangled and her spirit must decide whether to go or stay. She knows that she is the only surviving member of her immediate family. She also sees the reactions of her loved ones: friends, extended family, even the hospital staff taking care of her. Her life is viewed through flashbacks which clearly illustrate who this girl is: she is a gifted musician, she loves her family, her friends and Adam.
I have to emphasize the role music plays in this book. it is an integral part of the story. I responded viscerally to this aspect because, to me, memories are frequently entwined with music and I loved how this was handled in the story, especially because both Mia and Adam are musicians. I also loved that despite Mia’s being a teenager, her life is never trivialized or diminished in any way.
If I Stay is one of those books that haunts you long after the reading is done. The plot is both memorable and meaningful, it is really beautifully written and, although it can be sentimental, it is never maudlin nor hokey. All in all it is an unexpectedly satisfying read and those are the best ones: you don’t go in looking for it, but there it is.