Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Genre: Young Adult
Main characters: Adam Wilde, Mia Hall
Time and place: New York, 2011
First sentence:Every morning I wake up and I tell myself this: It’s just one day, one twenty-four-hour period to get yourself through.
Verdict: Three point five stars out of five.


Up onstage, in front of eighteen thousand fans, alongside the people who, once upon a time, were part of my family, I felt as alone as I do in [the recording] booth.

It’s been three years since Mia’s accident, two and a half since she has gone off to Juilliard and away from everything in her previous life. So many months that Adam has spent wondering why she has left him without a word, without ever coming back. He’s now a famous rock star, with an even more famous girlfriend, but he feels that his life is getting out of hand. He cannot stand his current band members, he has no patience for the press, and the mere thought of the tour that’s about to begin tires him to no end.

So, this is how it’s become? This is what I’ve become? A walking contradiction? I’m surrounded by people and feel alone. I claim to crave a bit of normalcy but now that I have some, it’s like I don’t know what to do with it, don’t know how to be a normal person anymore.

And then one evening, his last one in the States, he accidentally wanders near Carnegie Hall. There is a concert there, Mia Hall’s. And he cannot resist the temptation of seeing her again, after all this time…

General impression
I’ve read this one in a single sitting too :) That is how impatient I was to see how the book will end. Other than that though I was somewhat disappointed by it. Not that it’s a bad book, it’s quite a good one; my expectations were just so very high. It’s written in the same style as If I Stay (present day scenes alternating remembered ones), it still had an emotional impact on me, and yet… something I cannot pinpoint felt a bit off. Perhaps because I could no longer ‘get’ the characters as perfectly as I could in the first book? Perhaps because every single thing that made the first book stand out for me is now gone?

In the first book both Adam and Mia were like two innocent children, and it was one of the things I have liked most about them; now that innocence is gone, at least in Adam’s case (the story is narrated by him, so we have lots more details about his past life than Mia’s). Sure, his past years have been rather tame for a rock star, and he does a good job of explaining away all his mistakes — when all is said and done he’s still a decent human being, perhaps even a better one after all his challenges. I very much admired the way he’s been by Mia’s side during her recovery months. I cannot say I did not like him anymore, because he is still likable, and yet there was something missing compared to the previous book. Or maybe it just was a bit harder to have a famous rock star as a hero than an ordinary one (the more things in common I have with a character, the deeper I get into the story, I guess).

In a way I had the same problem — too few things in common — with Mia. She has obviously changed, which is very understandable given that she’s been through a lot. She is now a mystery to Adam (at least in part), and, given that the POV is his, she is somewhat a mystery to the reader too. I liked her still, for old times’ sake; I wonder how I would have felt about her had this been the first time we met.

One thing I did like is the way the author has chosen to depict Bryn, Adam’s current girlfriend. She is flawed, but a decent human being overall (usually in these cases the other woman is a harpy of sorts, and I was glad the author has stayed away from the cliche).
show spoiler

Like in the characters’ case, the relationship between Adam and Mia has been almost a disappointment. Not ’cause it was badly written (it wasn’t), but because it lacked the real-world-relationship feeling it had in the first book. In this one their past, everything Adam remembers, seems a tad too perfect. I am the first one to be saddened about the comparison; normally I am a sucker for perfect relationships, but the one depicted in ‘If I Stay’ felt real, felt worth the effort A & M put into it, and in contrast the perfect one felt too easy, and as such less.

Over and over while reading I was reminded of Before Sunrise. Boy meets girl, a chance encounter. They cannot bear to part, so they roam the streets of the city, officially for sightseeing’s sake, but in reality all they see is each other. Just like in the movie, Adam and Mia have to leave for different horizons in a few short hours. A relationship between them seems impossible now… and yet, what if it isn’t so? As previously stated I couldn’t put the book down :) All signs were pointing towards them saying goodbye to one another, having had closure and explanations, and all that. It would have been a very plausible ending… and yet I kept reading one page after another, well into the early hours, hoping that eventually they’ll realize what each of them has in the other, while at the same time fearing they will part ways.

Thoughts on the title
Complex :)
My issue with it is that the first book was titled ‘If I Stay’. Mia chose to stay, so Mia did not go anywhere (she remained on this plane of existence I mean) — so why does this title imply that she has chosen to go, instead of staying?

Thoughts on the ending
show spoiler

What I liked most
One thing I was glad to notice is the fame component of Adam’s life. I don’t know why it appealed to me so much, the fact that when he walked through the streets, his head filled with his thoughts and troubles, he also had to be wary of people recognizing him. May be because I find rather cool the idea of a chance encounter with a celebrity, on a subway or anywhere else. Or maybe I just like the consistency of it, the fact that the author always remembered to take into account the fact that her main character was famous & recognizable :)

The inclusion of lyrics from the album Adam has written when dealing with his grief, the album that has propelled the band to fame, was also a nice touch. I loved the way everything is rather abstract, filled with metaphors that take on new meanings when one knows what the story behind the words is.

My favorite:

There’s a piece of lead where my heart should beat
Doctor said too dangerous to take out
You’d better just leave it be
Body grew back around it, a miracle, praise be
Now, if only I could get through airport security

What I liked least
The vague supernatural element introduced. Sure, I was expecting Mia to remember the time she spent in a coma; her being able to have her parents around her at all times was a bit stretching it, but an okay way for her to keep on living without them I guess. However anything other than these two (such as the hint of memories Mia had from years before she was born) could have been very well skipped.

Recommend it to?
Anyone who read the first book and is curious what happens next :)

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This book is a sequel to:
If I Stay

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2 thoughts on “Where She Went by Gayle Forman

  1. This book is absolutely amazing, it keeps me interested in what was going on. As I read each page it was almost as if I was there walking the streets with them. I loved how everything was put together. In one day I feel in love with this story of such hurt, pain, anxiety, loneliness, betrayal, and of course the sting of a broken heart. This book is outstanding!!

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