A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a book for teens about a girl who loses her family in a car accident -- and is now in a coma. In addition to plenty of swearing and sexual material (including a steamy scene of mutual masturbation), it deals with the aftermath of the gruesome accident as Mia decides if she wants to live or die. This book can spark discussions about a range of topics, including unusual narrators to more intense talks about what they would do in Mia's place. Readers who enjoyed this book may want to check out its sequel, Where She Went.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Mia, a gifted cellist who may be heading to Julliard next year, barely survives a horrific car accident that kills her family. As her broken body is extracted from the wreck, rushed to the hospital, and worked on by doctors, Mia hovers between life and death in a coma. She finds herself out of body, able to walk invisibly through the hospital and listen in on family, friends, doctors, and nurses. Roaming the corridors and her memories, she realizes that she has a choice: Does she want to struggle through a life without a family and perhaps crippling injuries, or will she let go and perhaps rejoin the loved ones she has lost?
Is it any good?
Media about dying teens often plays out as mawkish melodramas; how satisfying, then, to find a book that's actually well-written, compelling, honest, and unsentimentally moving. Through Mia's disembodied thoughts and flashbacks we get to know not only her, but also her quirky, semi-punk parents, her sweetly energetic brother, her friends, and especially her boyfriend, Adam -- and all of them are appealing characters.
Despite the supernatural, out-of-body premise, author Gayle Forman keeps Mia's story grittily real, perhaps a bit excessively so in the accident scene (which demonstrates the power of metaphor and grim humor to unsettle the reader), but also in the characterizations, relationships, and hospital routines. She lets the situation play itself out matter-of-factly, relying on the power of the events to speak for themselves, rather than bringing in the literary equivalent of throbbing violins to wring sobs out of readers. This is moving and very thought-provoking, but never manipulative or melodramatic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about teen books and movies that deal with a young person's death. What other titles can you think of? Why is this a topic that resonates with teens? How does this book compare and contrast with other media?
This book's topic is intense -- as are the descriptions of the accident and some of the sexual material and language. Should a book ever be off limits to teens? Who should decide?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love coming-of-age stories
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.