When her beloved grandmother suffers a massive stroke and ends up in the hospital, high school junior Caroline Cabot’s world falls apart.
Gram was her closest friend and mentor during Caroline’s parents’ acrimonious divorce. When Gram dies, Caroline is forced to confront her grief, her alienation from her family and some difficult choices in the relationship arena. In an ambitious narrative device, the book juggles two alternating plots, following a prefatory “Before” section. Chapters titled “Stay” are based on the premise that Caroline chooses to remain with her grandmother in the hospital and hears her dying words of love for her granddaughter; in those titled “Go,” Caroline succumbs to her friends’ pressure to go to a party, thus missing the moment when Gram dies. Throughout the book, the consequences of these decisions are revealed, and both lead to the same cathartic epilogue. Although the dual narrative feels labored at times, and the moral message is not always clear, the authenticity of Caroline’s feelings and the real-world dilemmas she faces make her story one younger teens can easily relate to.
An unusual and intriguing meditation on freedom of choice. (Fiction. 12-16)