Thursday, January 24, 2013
Book Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Title: Where She Went (sequel to If I Stay)
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: April 5, 2011
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library
Plot Summary from Goodreads: **spoiler-y if you haven't read If I Stay**
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.
Remember my review of If I Stay? (I will sit here patiently if you want to go read it real quick-like.)
The book grabbed me, emotionally...but overall, compared to many other reviewers, I was lukewarm. I liked it, I didn't OMGLOVE it. It bothered me that Mia's position in the novel was not fully explained, and as a result, she didn't resonate with me in the way that I had hoped.
Even so, I was interested in trying the sequel, Where She Went, because the very fact that there IS a sequel was kind of a spoiler to the first book (because, um...Mia doesn't die). It was worth a shot, even if I did end up with another lukewarm reaction.
Well guess what, guys. My reaction is not underwhelming this time, because the sequel is FLIPPING AMAZING.
First off, the change in narrator is key. Hearing Adam's side of the story grounded everything in reality for me, much more so than Mia's ghost-like presence in the first novel. His emotions are so much more raw and powerful: I felt like the entire story pumped with vitality on a level that If I Stay didn't reach. Plus, beginning the novel through Adam's eyes gives you an automatic mystery to solve, as you try to piece together what's happened to him since the accident, and why he's lost touch with Mia. This distance from Mia's perspective was a big reason why I got sucked into the book so quickly.
Plus, Mia's unexplained level of consciousness in If I Stay is finally addressed head-on in Where She Went. It's not expressed in scientific terms, but Mia tells Adam how she remembers the accident, and it cleared up a lot of the questions I had in the first book. Again, the distance from Mia's narration was important here. And I love that this made the two books feel like they were coming full circle--the first one left me with a ton of questions, and by the end of the second one, everything felt fulfilled. The ending was spot-on perfect.
And finally--Adam and Mia. I find a lot of YA relationships to be a little over-the-top, but theirs is just wonderful. It's passionate and flawed and uncertain, and I love every piece of it. Without getting spoilery, I have to say there is one scene at the end, in Mia's garden? That was amazing. There is nothing fluffy and weak about Adam and Mia's bond, which I find so refreshing for a YA novel. And the way their music is infused into the story gives the whole thing a very unique atmosphere. Really well done by Forman.
Bottom line: if you read If I Stay, you HAVE to read Where She Went. I was reluctant to do so, given my reaction to the first book, but this is a sequel that's 100% worth the read.