One winter morning, seventeen-year-old Mia wakes up to find snow covering the front lawn of her family’s Oregon home. When it is declared over the radio that school is closed, Mia’s Mom, a travel agent, decides to stay home with Mia’s Dad, a middle school English teacher, and Mia’s eight-year-old brother, Teddy.
We are introduced to the main character, Mia, whose family is clearly very close and likes to spend time with each other, as demonstrated by their collective eagerness to spend the snow day together. Forman emphasizes how happy the family is to make the ensuing disaster feel more tragic.
As the family eats breakfast together, Mia’s Dad points out a photo of Mia’s boyfriend, Adam, in the newspaper. Adam is a member of a local up-and-coming band, Shooting Star, which opened the night before in Seattle for a well-known indie rock band called Bikini. Adam’s band is scheduled to play at a venue in Portland that night, which Mia plans to go to, though she notes that she may have to rehearse with a pianist and her cello teacher, Professor Christie, instead. Mia is a talented cellist, and recently auditioned for a spot at Juilliard. While she believes the audition went well and hopes to attend, she admits that moving to New York to study would create “complications” in her relationship with Adam, as they would each be on opposite coasts pursuing their different music careers.
Though Mia and Adam are both dedicated musicians, the difference in their projected paths causes tension in their relationship. While Mia is excited at the prospect of pursuing her study of the cello at Juilliard in New York, the rising popularity of Adam’s band in the Northwest means that he will remain in Oregon. Mia is proud of Adam’s success, but worried as to how the distance will affect their relationship. Music will be a very important motif in the book, as Mia, her family, and Adam understand many things (like personal relationships) in musical terms.
When Mia’s Mom asks if she would like more coffee, Mia mentions that she is considering going back to bed, since her cello is at school and she can’t practice. Mom is incredulous that Mia would go a whole day without practicing, a comment which prompts Mia to recall that Mom, a former rocker-chick, took time to warm up to Mia’s love of classical music and Mia’s “marathon” practice sessions. Then a crash sounds—it’s Teddy playing on Dad’s old drum set, which makes Mia wonder if her mother and father, who used to play in a local band, ever feel disappointed that she didn’t follow in their punk-rock shoes, and if they’re happy to see that Teddy may be heading in that direction. While Mia once intended to become a punk-rocker like her parents, she fell in love with the cello in music class at around Teddy’s age, and has been playing it ever since.
Mia is the only classical musician in a family of rockers. Her father used to be in a punk-rock band, her mother frequented the scene in their Oregon town, and even Teddy seems to lean towards rock music, as shown by his crashing on the drums. Mia often feels out of place, especially when her parents point out her intense, solitary focus on classical music (such as with her “marathon” practice sessions) instead of playing with a band or friends.
Mia’s Dad suggests that the family take a drive to visit Willow and Henry, married friends of the family who used to be musicians in the same punk-rock scene as Mom and Dad. Though Mia knows that Adam is busy with his touring band, and that her best friend, Kim, is occupied by her work for the yearbook, she admits that she would always rather spend the day with her family anyway. Mia initially thought that Adam, an effortlessly cool and older musician, was making fun of her when he expressed interest in her. However, the teenagers bonded over their mutual collections of dusty old records and love of music. After Teddy is done banging on the drums, the family finishes their breakfast before heading out for their day off.
While Mia likes to spend time with Kim and Adam, the whole family always enjoys spending time together. As with many of her other characteristics (like her love of classical music), Mia wonders if this makes her “dorky”—but her love of her family and of the cello are what make her who she is, and these are some of the very reasons that Adam falls in love with her. Mia lives a rather idealized life, and Adam is basically the perfect boyfriend.