Where She Went
Series: If I Stay, #2
Released: April 5th, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Rating: 5 stars
Word Rating: Uncontrollable sobbing
Reviewed by: Kate
It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.Mel and I adore Gayle Forman's writing, so while Blythe's on a break from the blog we thought we'd review a couple of Forman's older novels in anticipation of next month's release of Just One Year. Yesterday Mel talked about If I Stay; today I'm following up with its sequel. Enjoy!
Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future-and each other.
Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.
***This review contains spoilers for If I Stay (As does that blurb up there).***
But I'd do it again. I know that now. I'd make that promise a thousand times over and lose her a thousand times over to have heard her play last night or to see her in the morning sunlight. Or even without that. Just to know that she's somewhere out there. Alive.
Boy. This book really took me by surprise. So many of the things Forman does here are massive pet peeves of mine, and she somehow turns them on their heads and makes it all work just beautifully. Here are some of the things I hate when they happen in all books but this one:
SEQUELS TO GIMMICKY FIRST BOOKS: If I Stay wasn't my favorite. The whole thing with Mia having such a cool, perfect, dead family and then her spirit is floating around observing the interactions of people in the hospital while her brain remembers the past just...I don't know. It's not my thing. And I feel pretty strongly that episodic sequels should feel almost like echoes of the books that precede them, which I didn't think could be done without another character nearly dying. And I guess in a way Adam is dying, but his is a metaphorical death, and the lowered stakes of his situation here lend the story a poignancy (and a relatability) that I felt was lacking in the previous novel.
ORIGINAL SONG LYRICS: This is always a disaster. When I see lyrics to original songs in novels, I almost always feel extreme empathic humiliation for the author, who obviously wants desperately to be a cool poet. But the lyrics really, really worked for me here, maybe partially because Blind Pilot's "Three Rounds and a Sound" came on my iPod just as I read, "Bullets of the gun, rounds one two three/She says I have to pick: choose you, or choose me," which, I know, seem like terrible lyrics when taken out of context, but the rest of the verse is good, as are the rest of the songs in the book.
RICH PEOPLE COMPLAINING ABOUT THEIR FANCY LIVES: Forman is really, really good at making me give a shit about wealthy characters who are having feelings problems, and I'm not quite sure how she does it. This shocked me in Just One Day, too. I mean, Where She Went is about a famous 21-year-old rock star who is still hung up on the high school girlfriend who dumped him. There is absolutely no reason, aside from Forman's gorgeous character work, that this should be even remotely interesting.
YOUNG MALE FIRST-PERSON NARRATION WRITTEN BY A WOMAN: This, like my previous point, comes back to Forman's deftness with character. I actually prefer Adam's voice in this novel to Mia's in the previous one. (Side note: this gives me hope for Just One Year)
TREATING A HIGH SCHOOL RELATIONSHIP LIKE IT MATTERS AT ALL AFTER SCHOOL ENDS: This one is pretty self-explanatory, and it, too, comes down to the characters and the extreme circumstances of their lives.
PORTRAYAL OF PROFESSIONAL ACTORS AND MUSICIANS WHO LIVE IN LOS ANGELES: Most of my friends and I work in the entertainment industry, and I become irate when authors get lazy with their research in this area. So many books with entertainment-focused elements rely on an old school, almost Sweet Valley High-esque version of the world I live and work in, and it's pretty insulting. But everything about Adam and his interactions with his actress girlfriend ring true for me. It's really heartening.
This novel is just impossibly lovely, especially when you take into account all the ways it really should have gone wrong. I read Where She Went very late at night. And then I had to read it a second time, while bawling like a tiny baby boy, before I was able to fall asleep. That's about as good as it gets for me.