Review: Where She Went, Gayle Forman

Where She Went is the sequel to Gayle Forman’s novel If I Stay. It picks up the story of Mia and Adam about three years after the events of the previous book. In the intervening time, Mia and Adam broke up and lived very separate lives. Mia went to Juilliard and pursued her dream of being a renowned cellist. Meanwhile, Adam channeled all his hurt and pain over Mia’s rejection into writing songs, and almost before he knew it, his band Shooting Star had a hit record, and he was a rock star, complete with an actress girlfriend and a jet set lifestyle. Inside, he feels hollow, and even music no longer means much to him. On his last night in New York before heading to London for a tour with his band, Adam is alone. He’s just flipped out in the middle of an interview, and his manager gives him the evening off to pull himself together. Wandering around New York, he finds himself at Carnegie Hall, and he is stunned to discover Mia is playing there, that night. He purchases a rush ticket and watches her concert. At the end, an usher approaches him and says that “Ms. Hall would like you to come backstage.” Mia takes Adam on a tour of her New York, and over the course of the evening, they say all the things they left unsaid when they parted.

Some reviewers claim that they like this book even better than the first, which is unusual, as sequels often don’t measure up to the promise of the first book in a series. In my own review of If I Stay, I mentioned that it would have been a book I’d have adored as a teenager—and I do mean it would have been one my absolute favorite books of all time if I had encountered it in high school. Adam would have been exactly the kind of boyfriend I’d have wanted in high school. By my mid-twenties, I had soured big time on that kind of guy because of the kind of person Adam became after his band made it big. The problem with so many of those types is that they never really mature out of their own selfishness. They’re terribly cool people, and they are interesting and artistic. But they are horrible to be in love with. The interesting thing about this book is that it exposes that side of rock musicians and also that it allows Adam a chance to grow out of it. This book is told from Adam’s point of view rather than Mia’s, and I found her to be very interesting in his head. As someone who has read the first book, I also have Mia’s own point of view, but Adam doesn’t have it. He is filled with insecurity and anxiety, but mostly he’s just numb and sort of sleepwalking through his life. I think I actually liked this book better, too. What happens to Mia in the first book is terrible—almost too terrible—but the horrible mundanity of a devastating breakup is something we can all relate to, and Forman captures the feeling so well. Mia and Adam are grown up now, too, and though they are young, they have lost that naivete and innocence they had in the first book. Well, they must. They’ve experienced a great deal of pain and growth. One has the sense at the end of Where She Went that they will be okay and will be able to handle whatever happens next, whether that means they will be together or not.

Rating: ★★★★★

Here’s the playlist, with one substitution unavailable in Spotify (Le Tigre’s “My My Metrocard” for “Deceptacon,” a track from the same album).

Related posts: