Note: Where She Went is a sequel to If I Stay, and the synopsis of this book is going to contain SPOILERS about the first book.
Where She Went picks up three years after the events of the first book. Adam is our narrator this time around, and we find him a pretty big rock star now, living the life of the rich and famous but still feeling alone and missing Mia, whom he has not seen since they both left for college. Mia is now attending Juilliard, and through a little serendipity, the two of them meet up and try to bridge the gap that has formed over the last few years.
There’s not much more to the plot than that, but Forman’s talent lies in highlighting the little moments, great character development, and the emotional aftermath that comes with such a devastating event. Even though Mia pulled through, there was still plenty of pain and hurt, both physical and emotional, to work through. Through Adam, we get flashbacks to after the accident interspersed with the present day. Adam was a good narrator, and it was nice to get the story from his perspective, but I really missed Mia as a narrator, she was just that enjoyable in the first book.
Forman does a nice job of infusing uncertainty into the well-worn will they/won’t they set up, and the interaction between Adam and Mia feels natural, never forced. As with the first book, I really felt for these two and was rooting for them throughout. Though the stories are very different, this book often reminded me of the Before Sunrise and Before Sunset movies starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in tone and pace (if you haven’t seen them, I highly recommend them).
I found this to be a very satisfying conclusion to Adam and Mia’s story, and was glad to spend some more time with them, even if it did go by way too fast.
A few quick reviews for some of the books that have been piling up…The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, and Blood Red Road by Moira Young. Happily, my pile of to-be-reviewed is finally getting smaller.
Mia is a fairly normal 17-year-old. She has a family she loves, a boyfriend and a best friend, and is nervously waiting to her about her application to Juilliard. Everything changes for her one morning when her family decides to take a drive to see Mia’s grandparents that live a couple of hours away – the roads are slick and they get into an accident. Mia finds herself detached from her body, observing the whole scene. Her parents were clearly killed on impact, and she watches as herself and her little brother, Teddy, are rushed from the scene with life-threatening injuries. Mia survives surgery but is still in a coma, and as a parade of family and friends comes through, alternately pleading for her to stay and telling her it’s alright to let go, Mia realizes she alone can decide whether or not she wants to live or die.
That’s it for the premise of this book (clocking in at a trim 234 pages), no twists or turns, but man alive does Gayle Forman really deliver a story. Starting with the somber, somewhat grisly description of the accident scene, Forman grabs ahold of your heart and keeps on twisting. This book is poignant but never over-wrought and is a quiet story about a girl on the edge of life, both literally and metaphorically. Mia’s observations the hospital scene are interspersed with memories of her family and friends; this not only adds some levity to the story, but also develops the characters and adds weight to Mia’s decision. It’s an interesting decision, too. What would we choose if we were put in the same situation? It’s easy to assume we would fight for our life, but what if half your family was taken from you? What if you knew staying meant having to cope with being an orphan? Wouldn’t it be easier to just let go? Forman handles these questions with a deft hand; she never over-dramatizes (something that would be very easy to do, given the subject matter) and Mia’s thoughts always seem true to the character.
I really enjoyed this story, and if you like good character studies, I would highly recommend it. It’s a quick read with some great characters and a solid story. I will definitely check out more of Forman’s writing in the future.
Oh, and side note. That little blurb on the cover there? That says fans of Twilight will enjoy this book? Ignore it. Seriously. Everything in this book feels real and I feel fairly confident in saying that none of these characters would be turned on by Sparkly Stalkers.
Simply put, If I Stay is a short, bittersweet, beautifully written novel about love and loss.
Read my review here on my blog.
CBR III Review #84: Sisters in Sanity by Gayle Forman
Gayle Forman is an excellent writer, I just wish she had been around to write novels when I was actually a young adult. I think I could appreciate her novels just a tad bit more if I was in the target audience. Sisters in Sanity is about Brit Hemphill, a young teen, who marches to her own beat or to her own drum (you get the point). Brit is not sexually promiscuous and she doesn’t do drugs, but she does stay out late and play in a band. Her father and stepmother use that as an excuse to ship her off to Red Rock, a “school” for troubled teens. Red Rock is a nightmare. Red Rock’s program aims to tear teenagers down other than building them up and bestowing them with self confidence. Brit becomes increasingly depressed about her situation until she meets a few girls that makes the nightmare bearable.
I tend to lean towards mysteries and suspense, but I enjoyed Sisters in Sanity even though it’s not my normal fare. There is no grand conspiracy to unravel just some teenage girls trying to make due in a horrible situation. The novel is beautifully written. It is a a coming of age story, but I feel it is more relatable if you are an alienated teen.
Sisters in Sanity is a quick read and I really learned to enjoy Brit as a character and as a narrator. As I said I wish I could have related a bit more to the story, but I highly recommend it to those who decide live life off the beaten path.
- Reading level: Young Adult
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 Reprint edition (April 21, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060887494
- ASIN: B00375LOR8
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars
CBR III Review #66: Where She Went by Gayle Forman
If you have read If I Stay I recommend picking up Where She Went. Mia barely survived the crash that killed her entire family. Everyone who was close to Mia had their lives change that day, as well as Mia but she never really understood what her boyfriend Adam was going through at the time. This novel follows Adam three years later after the tragic accident and you find out exactly how the accident created who Adam is today.
Adam is now in an extremely popular band but is extremely dissatisfied with life. Mia is a cellist graduating from Juilliard and is kicking off a world tour. Adam’s and Mia’s paths cross for the first time in 3 years and they both expose the hurt and betrayal they felt after the accident and you find out why Adam and Mia’s relationship came to a halting stop.
I really enjoyed If I Stay, so I loved catching back up with Adam and Mia. It’s hard to believe that two people from a small high school in the middle of the country have become renowned musicians but sometimes you have to let believability slide.
- Reading level: Young Adult
- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (April 5, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780525422945
- ISBN-13: 978-0525422945
- ASIN: 0525422943
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars