I'm going to attempt to highlight my favorite YA Books every week, and I'm kicking off with a recently read and loved novel that's heartbreaking to read but is ultimately about hope, family and love.
I'll start with the book "If I Stay," by Gayle Forman. This books resonated with me so much I read it in one night. I couldn't put it down. It's not that it's a page-turning, edge-of-your-seat adventure like "The Hunger Games," but it's a lyrical, beautifully written look at tragedy, grief, life and death.
The protagonist of "If I Stay" is an Oregon girl named Mia, a high-school senior with loving hipster parents, a hopelessly devoted musician boyfriend, an adorable younger brother and a talent for the cello that is sure to nail her a spot at Juilliard. Everything goes horribly wrong one unexpected snow day when the family gets into a fatal car crash that leaves Mia in an unconscious battle between life and death. Should she quietly give into death or should she fight to survive, even though her life will never be the same? With the help of her boyfriend Adam, best friend Kim, and grandparents, Mia weighs her equally as devastating choices.
I loved Mia. She was close to her parents, which is rare for young adult books, in which parents are often misguided and kids misunderstood. That wasn't the case here. Mia's parents are cooler than she is -- punk-rock hipsters to her budding classical musician. They completely "get" her, and they're supportive of her musical gifts without being "Tiger Mom"-ish about her skills.
And then there's Adam. What a boyfriend. Forget creepy supernatural stalker boyfriends, girls, Adam is the kind of boy you want to fall for! He's talented, focused, and kind. He's the kind of guy who saves up two weeks of pizza-delivery tips to take Mia to see Yo-Yo Ma play in a symphony hall. He's the sort of boyfriend who constantly warms up Mia's fingers in act so sweetly intimate it immediately makes Mia's parents realize their daughter has found real love, not some adolescent approximation of it.
I can't recommend this book more highly. It's tough to read (I kept a box of tissue next to me, but books make me a cry in a way movies rarely do), but it's well worth the tears. My colleague at Common Sense recommends it for kids 13 and up, and I agree.
Edited to add: The best news about this books is that there's a sequel! I won't give too much away, because it would spoil "If I Stay," but it comes out in one month, and I've already pre-ordered it.