“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
Neil Gaiman

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Gayle Forman Deftly Digs Into The Aftermath of Tragedy

A few years ago, on one of my wanderings into Children's Book World in Haverford, I walked up to the register with a signed copy of Gayle Forman's If I Stay.  It had been on my "to read" list since it's debut and I'd decided it was high time I moved it up on my list.  I never leave CBW with only one book, but conversation at the register made me throw a copy of Where She Went onto my pile (you do serious damage to my bank account Heather!)

Time, as usual, got away from me.  I kept moving it aside as my pile of review copies continued to spiral beyond control.  With the movie coming out, and a week of vacation in Vermont ahead of me, I decided I really couldn't keep it on the shelf any longer; both books all but jumped into my travel read bag.

Within two nights, both books were devoured.  They were not challenging reads, but the pleasure was in the cathartic emotion of beautiful, heart-breaking characters.  I have already warned my daughter that we may as well pack the whole darn box of Kleenex when we head out to see the film.  Fifteen pages into If I Stay, my eyes began tearing and it was a fairly constant feeling for the 222 pages that followed.  No one reads the same book, and my own personal narrative certainly amplified the emotion of this beautiful tale.   There is a section where Mia, the main character, is with friends and family after the funeral of a close family friend who died suddenly and her father says "'I just think that funerals are a lot like death itself.  You can have your wishes, your plans, but at the end of the day, it's out of your control.'"  They continue to take turns throwing in each of their ideal music selections for their own funerals.  Many years ago, I had a similar conversation with my father about funerals and I will never forget him telling me he'd like a live quartet playing Pachelbel's Cannon.  If I Stay isn't just a story about death and tragedy, however.  Far from it.  It is a story about life.

Where She Went is a completely different story.  It is the aftermath of tragedy and heartbreak told from Mia's boyfriend Adam's voice and perspective.  Many sequels do not live up to their predecessor, but this one is every bit as good.  It's about the collateral damage and long hard road toward becoming whole again.  The opening line is one I've uttered myself multiple times throughout my life: "Every morning I wake up and tell myself this: It's just one day, one twenty-four-hour period to get yourself through."  That daily personal pep talk to get yourself through seemingly insurmountable darkness.  But more than anything what I love about both of these lovely stories is that life is filled with a rainbow of emotions and despite the lows, it is also filled with love, beauty, passion...and hope.

Courtesy of Penguin Group

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