Thursday, 16 June 2011

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Warning: There are spoilers in this review for both If I Stay and Where She Went.  If you haven't read them, which I suggest you do right now, you had better not read this review, because it gives away critical things.
Summary (from Goodreads): 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.

Review: So.  Where do I begin. 
If you've been following the blog for a while you may or may not know how much I've been going on about this book. I even contemplated taking an intense crash course in French so I could read it when it was released in France back in November. Alas, the Russian subjunctive and German subordinate clause have given me more than enough to worry about at the moment, and it was probably never going to happen, so I never did.
And then it was finally released here in the sceptr'd isle, so I read it in English, which is probably for the best anyway, because I doubt the fantastically haunting and spare writing style could be sufficiently translated into any language.

However, it's probably worth me mentioning that I was hesitant to actually start it, as soon as it was in my clutches: What if I didn't like it?  What would happen if Mia and Adam had changed from the awesome people they had been? What if them both being like that prevented me from not only disliking Where She Went, but If I Stay as well?  Most importantly, what would happen if either of them were killed off? 
But then my inquisitiveness got the better of me, and so I ended up tearing through this book in about two sittings. I guess it was kind of a combination of the fact that it was just so, well, amazingly done, and out of curiosity to find out what was going to happen next.  If I Stay was one of the best books that I read last year, and it was fantastic to see the stories of the characters I loved so much three years on.    And it's just as good as If I Stay, but for much of the book in a much more subtle way, I think.
Three years on, and Adam isn't at all like the passionate, enthusiastic musician that he was when we left him.  He's a perfect example of the clich√© that is rock and roll, complete with an actress girlfriend, a house in LA, and thousands of fangirls across the world.  Strangely, although Adam's band has really taken off in Where She Went, and Mia was about to embark on a tour to Japan, I didn't feel like music was such a strong element of the book. I mean, music was the reason that Adam had become such a train wreck, and why Mia was in New York, but actually, directly, there wasn't that much of it.  In some respects this was kind of a shame, because to me that was one of the most powerful things about its predecessor.  It's a book not about events, or what makes up or leads up to events, so much as the events after the event; about the wheres and whens and whys and what ifs.  Does that make sense?  Ignore me if that makes things any easier.

It's one of those books that I couldn't really give a proper plot summary of. If I said to someone who asked me what it was about, or what happened in the book, I'd be like, "it's about a cello virtuoso and a singer in a band...and they used to be in love, and then she was in a car crash and lost her whole family..." but no, wait, that happened in the first book. What happens here?  "Well, uh, they find each other in New York City, and they spend the night together, and then they fall back in love,..." Yeah, it could just be me because I suck at summarising books, but at such a summary it doesn't sound like the most heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, turn-the-page-with-so-much-enthusiasm-you-almost-tear-it sort of book.  But oh, it is.  Very very much so. I read most of this while I was babysitting, and if one of the boys I was looking after had woken up I would have been like, "Wait just a second!  Mia's about to tell Adam why she never came back!"

Which is where we get to all the revelatory stuff.  The way the story is laid out is absolutely perfect; everything is gradually revealed, so that just when one thing is worked out or explained you're told about something else.  It's like unwrapping a present. There are so many layers and as you get deeper and deeper into the story, and you find out more and more, until you're just left with the one thing that really matters, the thing that you really want to know.  And, to me, it was an entirely sufficient explanation for why Mia just vanished from Adam's life after deciding to stay.  I felt a little twinge of dislike for her then, for doing that to Adam, but she had her reasons, and I totally get that. Gayle Forman has such a powerful way of writing about people and why they do the things they do.

I feel like I'm rambling a bit now, and that I can't really do it any justice. So. Just find a copy and read it and see for yourself. Laugh. Cry. Scowl. Cheer.  And be glad that Mia decided to stay and she went where she did.  And that probably sounds really cheesy, but it's true.

In three words: Powerful, revelatory, haunting.
recommended for: Everyone who wants to know what happened when Mia stayed.
Rating: 5


  1. Oh my goodness, you basically wrote exactly how I felt about this book! I loved how you described it as unwrapping a present. :) Wonderful review to an awesome series.

  2. This book is definitely one of my favorite books of all time! Not even kidding! This book made me cry, smile, and made me feel heartbroken right along with Adam as he rediscovered himself after three years of being separated from Mia. Three years since Adam had to witness Mia lose her entire family, as she made the choice of staying.

  3. so do they end up together? Thats all im wondering...


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