Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Series: If I Stay Series
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publish Date: April 5, 2011
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction, Contemporary
It’s been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life forever.
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.
As a huge proponent of reading a book before watching the movie adaptation, I rushed to Barnes and Noble to buy If I Staybefore the movie came out. I read If I Stay in a single night, and I loved every last minute of it. Unfortunately, despite my high expectations, I can’t say the same about Where She Went.
Where She Went is told entirely from Adam’s perspective and takes place approximately one year after Mia’s accident. When Mia decided to stay, she awoke from her comatose state and embarked on her long road to recovery, heavily reliant upon Adam, the one constant in her life. However, when Mia departs for Juilliard and Adam returns his attention to his band, Shooting Stars, they become preoccupied with their separate lives, and eventually, Mia cuts off all contact with Adam. Plagued by grief, Adam recounts his life without Mia, learning to live without the girl that stole his heart.
My main complaint is Adam, who simply serves as an annoying, whining jerk in the novel. He was, by far, my favorite character in If I Stay, but here, he comes across as moping and self-centered. This seems to be a recent trend in female characters, but we’re now transitioning to teenage boys? Please. Even more frustrating is Adam’s ceaseless commentary. As the first person narrator, Adam not only conveys the events as they transpire, but he also interjects his own thoughts and emotions, which spiral in a constant whirlwind of elation because he has been reunited with Mia, anxiety because he doesn’t know what to say to her, anxiety because he is about to go on tour, anxiety because he runs out of anxiety pills, anxiety about permanently leaving the Shooting Stars, and then back to elation because he has been reunited with Mia. In simplest terms, he’s very anxious…about everything. While he’s at it, he might as well worry about getting hit by the Knight Bus (which I hear is quite common on large cities).
Mia was equally wishy washy. One second, she seemed to be pushing Adam away, finalizing their break up three years prior, but the next, she was leading Adam on, sending the message that she wanted to rekindle their relationship. Talk about sending mixed messages. She also seemed a bit cold and reserved, which directly opposed her charming, bubbly personality in If I Stay.Yes, she lost her entire family in a car accident, but here it just seems like she’s wallowing in self-pity.
The plot moves very slowly. The entire books takes course over a period of 24 hours, so many of the scenes are described in excruciating detail. In all honesty, Forman could have retained the same plot and condensed this into a 30 page novella, which would have been a less torturous read. The few events that did occur seemed disjointed, as if there had been missing scenes between each event that Forman removed before publication. Other scenes, such as riding the subway, seemed unnecessary – nothing significant happens, equating to a very bored reader.
Lastly, the writing isn’t extraordinary – in either book of the duology. Forman is an average writer, but nothing really stands out to me about her work. In If I Stay, I simply pegged this as focusing more on evoking emotions from readers, rather than producing the next great literary classic. I wasn’t able to use this excuse for Where She Went, however, because the book never affected me emotionally. I’ve racked my brains for a good excuse to explain the mediocre writing, but I haven’t been able to find one.
Overall, I wouldn’t recommend Where She Went, even to those who have already read If I Stay. I read it more out of curiosity regarding the characters and how they resumed their daily lives after the accident, rather than out of genuine interest in the plot, writing style, etc. Am I glad I read it? Yes, at least I can say that I’ve read it and I’m glad to have some sense of closure. Will I read it again? Probably not, it isn’t worth a second read.