Sunday, April 24, 2011

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Series: Sequel to If I Stay 
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Social Issues
Rating: B or B+

Synopsis: 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.

First Impression: I loved the first book (If I Stay) and had very high expectations for this book. When I first heard that there was going to be a sequel to If I Stay, I was jumping off the walls. Then I heard that it was not through the point of view of the original protagonist (Mia) but instead her boyfriend's, Adam Wilde. I tend not to read books from guys point of views, though I have made exceptions. Adam seemed like a good guy in the first book, but he didn't exactly come off as the type of guy that I really wanted to read a book through his eyes. Now looking back, I think it's because while I loved If I Stay, Forman never fully developed her minor characters. Though it may be because Mia saw most of the people in her life in a perfect, glimmering light.

Full Impression: I read If I Stay a couple of years ago and fell in love with the book that chronicles Mia Hall's "decision" whether "to stay or to go" after a devastating accident claims the life of her parents and her nine year old brother, leaving her in critical condition and a coma. The book had been raw and heartbreaking but at the same time funny and heartwarming. Spoilers: After spending a day or so having an outer body experience (sorta like a ghost except her body was still alive and hooked up to monitors) and reflecting on events that were her reasons to stay, wake up, and try to move on with her life, or go and die with the rest of her family, she wakes up -- though not because she really choose to. 

    Where She Went picks up three years later. Mia went off to Juilliard and left Adam behind. After months of being in his own mental and emotional coma, Adam woke up and wrote heartbreaking and angry songs that propelled his band to stardom. But groupies, money and stardom could not fill the void. Not even music could. Adam has become a living dead thing. Medication for anxiety and sleeping keep him moving. He's tired and numb and lost. Both Mia and her life has become a complete mystery to him. The glorious and loving rockstar god that Mia had painted him as in If I Stay is seemingly gone; left behind is a hurt and pain that has taken over his life and made Mr. Perfect into an emo train wreck. 

    After an interview gone wrong, Adam finds himself wandering New York. As luck would have it, who else would be playing a concert that night but Mia herself. And of course he would just happen to pass by the theater shortly before it begins. After the performance, Mia calls him to her dressing room, they exchange awkward  greetings, and he leaves. It could have ended there had not Mia went after him. With less then 24 hours before they are destined to go in opposite directions (Adam kicking off the band's second tour in London and Mia gearing up for her own journeys abroad with her cello), Mia and Adam experience a "Goodbye Tour" of New York. As the travel through the city, they must face what time and different lives have done to them, what the effects of "staying" after losing almost everything has done to Mia, and what losing Mia has done to Adam. 

    The story is told through alternating chapters of the present and flash backs, much like how If I Stay was written. The only difference is that with If I Stay, those flashbacks played a VERY crucial part in Mia's and the stories development. While it's good to know exactly what happened to Adam and Mia between If I Stay and Where She Went, I found some of the flash backs too slow and some where even unneeded. Chapter thirteen is completely unneeded. It's nine pages that only explore the fact that he did it with some groupies and wasn't the kindest to one in particular that followed him to the next city after a one night stand. I found myself counting down the pages until the flashback chapters would end and the story would once again continue Adam and Mia's adventures through New York. That's never good. 

Cover:  Sigh. I loved the original hardcover version of If I Stay a lot better then the paperback cover. The cover of Where She Went ties in nicely with paperback version of Where She Went, but I wish they had made the hardcover version of the sequel book tie in with the hardcover version of the first. That's not saying that the cover isn't beautiful in it's own right (because it is), I just guess I wanted something a little different.  

Dislikes: To much back story. I wish the author had picked up the pace of the flashbacks and had concentrated on the main story more. Some of the flashbacks were too long and too slow, some where completely unneeded, and some where good, but would have definitely benefited from some editing to cut down the length and pick up the speed. At times it seemed that the author was trying more to reach a certain amount of words or pages per chapter, then she was trying to tell a story. You don't need a lot of words just to say a lot.  
Final Thoughts: Like If I Stay, Where She Went is emotional and raw. I highly recommend that you read If I Stay, but Where She Went also makes a great stand alone book. The good parts were excellent and really helped me connect with Adam, but the good kept on being interrupted by the slow. While maybe this book wasn't perfect, it definitely gave a closure not only to If I Stay, but also to Mia and Adam.



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