Sunday, May 8, 2011

Review: Where She Went

Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: April 5, 2011

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 Julliard'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.

I was content with the ending of If I Stay; it was haunting and beautiful and far from a Happily Ever After, but I preferred it that way. Of course, this didn't stop me from frantically devouring the sequel as soon as I could get my hands on it! I was surprised - and pleased - to learn that Where She Went is written from Adam’s perspective. Still, I thought as I perused the first chapter, it’ll probably be an alternating narrative type deal. But nope. The story is told entirely from now-21-year-old Adam’s point-of-view, a change that fits perfectly with where the characters - Adam and Mia - are in their lives after the events of If I Stay. Similar to the format of the first book, occasional flashbacks are integrated into the main story, filling in the time-skip blanks and explaining the changes that Adam's previously steady nature has undergone.

Where She Went certainly held my attention and the characters are as well-drawn and fully realized as the first book. Mia and Adam’s feelings – their mutual hurt and love – come across as very genuine. Gayle Forman has a gift for getting into the point-of-view character's head and expressing their emotions in heart-wrenching detail. Her writing is as lyrically beautiful and bold as it was in If I Stay, but this time imbued with all of Adam's anxiety and self-deprecating bitterness. The musical influences, including Adam’s emotionally raw lyrics, are intrinsic to the story and really add depth to his character. One of my favourite aspects of Where She Went is that it examines the grief of a person who is not the most closely related to the deceased, showing the spore effect of death.

Despite being beautifully written, I feel as if Where She Went lacks some of the emotional impact of If I Stay. Perhaps this is partially a result of having read them nearly back-to-back, but Mia's story just seemed so immediate and the uncertainty of whether she would chose to stay or go haunted the story, while parts of the sequel felt somewhat predictable. The fact that Adam is a super-famous, tabloid-fodder rock star, Mia is well-known in the cellist world, and even her best friend Kim is taking photos for National Geographic also lends a sense of surrealism to the story; consequently, it loses some of the realism that, for example, made Mia’s middle-class family so endearing in the first book.

Nevertheless, Where She Went is a must-read for fans of the first book. Though not necessarily lighter than If I Stay, it is more romance-focused and cathartic in its examination of Adam's pent-up emotions and choices.

Rating: 4/5

Cover Thoughts: Although the glassy-blue background behind a pensive-looking Mia complements the cover of the first book, I would've liked to see Adam pictured, since Where She Went is told from his perspective. Some reference to music (an instrument or something) might've suited the story more too. And I could be wrong, but isn't Mia described as having dark hair and eyes? Both covers depict her having what seem like blue-ish eyes, but that's getting pretty nitpicky.

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