Guest Review by Ashlee Burke
Gayle Forman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors and is someone who I will constantly be checking for new titles. Where She Went is a sequel to her devastatingly beautiful debut novel: If I Stay. I will be referencing If I stay several times because they are definitely not stand alone novels. You need to read the first book to understand what is happening in the second. (If I Stay on Goodreads)
Goodreads on Where She Went: 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.
Despite the title this sequel is not a philosophical book about where Mia was in the first novel. It does not address if she was in heaven or having an out of body experience and her experience is in fact not even addressed until later in the book. Where She Went is a reference of Adam’s perspective. It’s a question of his loss. What makes the sequel very interesting (and what makes it work for me) is that even though this novel is in a different characters point of view than the first novel it is just as personal and relatable. That in itself is what I think is the major accomplishment of these novels. They are able to make you relate to situations that are normally very hard to relate to: a devastating loss in If I Stay and life crippling fame in Where She Went. Where She Went also addresses the ripple of devastation a single loss can create.
Loss affects everyone in very different ways and sometimes the people who are not immediately related to those who are gone have their pain pushed aside and overlooked even though they are suffering along with the immediate family. As I mentioned Where She Went is not a reference to where Mia went in If I Stay. Mia left Adam and it becomes clear throughout the novel that Adam has no idea where this very important person in his life was and why she was no longer there for him when he felt he had always been there for her.
As I mentioned before the fact that I found this novel to be very relatable was a major accomplishment because the Adam you find in Where She Went is a very different Adam from that in If I Stay. In If I stay Adam is the dedicated boyfriend who loves music and is willing to sacrifice anything for Mia. The Adam in Where She Went is an apathetic famous musician who now finds music a burden on his life and cannot find happiness in anything that he has been given. On the surface he is not a very relatable character. He is constantly complaining about the problems fame has brought to his life and in the beginning I was wondering how this book would even connect with the first one because the first novel had such heart even in the face of great loss. Adam it seemed was just a whiny little boy. It isn’t until you begin to realize how much Adam himself lost that you see that his problems do not stem from fame and he becomes a completely different character without changing his narrative all that much.
Mia herself has changed but not so much that she becomes a different character. When we meet up with her she is doing what she loves: performing. She has graduated from Julliard and is preparing to fly to Japan for the first performance of her tour. It is interesting that while it becomes apparent that she completely cut Adam out of her life she continues to surround herself with the pictures and memories of those who she did not choose to lose. It is not until the end that you are shown why she left Adam. It is a powerful revealing and the strongest reference to the first novel. Which makes sense because If I Stay is Mia’s story where as Where She Went belongs solely to Adam. Overall I cannot recommend this book enough especially to the contemporary young adult readers out there.