Mia plays the cello and is an oddball in her family, which is made up of punk mom and tattooed, eccentric, bicycle-riding, punk band-member, record-store employee dad; and sweet little brother. While they are all blonde and blue-eyed, she is not. (And if you’ve been paying attention to the genetics unit in your science class, this should strike you as strange.) But Mia has inherited the family music talent and is headed for Julliard to train as a classical cellist. And lucky girl—she’s got a great punk guitarist boyfriend, who loves her for all that she is.
The world tilts off its axis when Mia’s family decides to take a little drive on a ‘snow day’ off from school and is involved in an accident. The scene is narrated in a heartrending mix of reality and emotion as Mia stands beside her own body and watches her dead parents as well as the paramedics who are working on her. “You hang in there,” one tells her. (Yes, you will cry.) Even while Mia’s best friend, Kim, visits her in the hospital, you laugh at her sense of humor while understanding how devastated she is. (“If you die, there’s going to be one of those cheesy Princess Diana memorials at school,” she tells the comatose Mia.)
Throughout her hospital stay—her surgeries and critical care—Mia thinks about the progress of her relationship with her boyfriend, Adam and how they fell in love over time—mostly sweet and beautiful, a little bit sexy. Though Mia is comatose, she understands all that happens around her. She knows that her family members are dead. When her grandfather visits her and tells her he would like her to stay but understands if she, too, must leave, it becomes clear that Mia doesn’t know what to do. Should she live—and stay—when there’s so little left for her and so much pain and grieving to deal with if she wakes up?
What makes a person want to live? Why should a person try to live in the face of terrible tragedy? This short novel is a lovely look at what makes life worth living, at the beauty of young romance and at the endurance of family ties. I’m kind of an old fart who’s read a lot and pretty much never cries about a book. This was a significant exception. Read it.
Note: For the entire list of Ms. W’s Young Adult summer reading, click here.