This is definitely a page turner of a novel – and a weepy one too. Forman is an accomplished writer and the book is full of engaging, fully developed characters. At the start of the story, 17-year-old Mia appears to have everything: Adam, her sensitive, talented boyfriend with a growing local reputation as a rock star; cool, funny parents; Teddy, a sweet little brother, and Kim, a quirky, intelligent best friend. Mia is a talented classical musician hoping for a place at Juilliard. She has some problems and anxieties but they are all within the normal range of teenage worries.
Then, on a snowy week-day morning when school is magically cancelled, the family take a drive and tragedy happens. Her parents are both killed in a head on collision, Mia is critically injured and we are not sure what has happened to Teddy. A few chapters later, we learn that he has died too.
It’s a story told in two parts: flashbacks from Mia’s life and the events of the 24 hours following the accident. Written in the first person, Mia’s descriptions of her earlier life are full of lively detail and humour and the characters, even the minor ones, are people you really care about. In the accident and hospital scenes, Forman has given herself a technical problem: how can Mia describe what she is thinking and feeling throughout this terrible day when, for the most part, she is lying unconscious in the hospital ICU? Forman overcomes this difficulty by giving Mia an ‘out of body’ experience. Her physical body lies in the hospital ICU but her ‘spirit’ allows her to see and hear everything going on around her, including Adam’s desperate pleading for her to hang on in there and stay alive. This, I thought, was less successful, but it doesn’t detract from the overall power of this novel.
In the end, with Adam’s encouragement, Mia seems to choose life and it would be a hardhearted reader who remains dry eyed and not wonder what kind of life this could possibly be.