Where She Went, the sequel to If I Stay, is full of emotion, beautifully written, and definitely aimed at an older YA audience.
For those of you who missed If I Stay (SPOILER!), the basic gist is that Mia is in a horrific car accident with her family and finds herself forced to decide whether she wants to fight to live or let herself slip from her coma into death. One of the main things that helps her make up her mind is her boyfriend, Adam, who tells her that if she stays, he’ll do anything for her, even if that means giving her up if it’s too painful to see him and be reminded of the life she has all but lost.
And now Where She Went picks up three years after the end of If I Stay. Mia did choose to stay and Adam was instrumental in helping her work through recovery. She goes back to her music (cello) within months and heads to Julliard on schedule. And then, she abruptly breaks off contact with Adam. He hasn’t heard from her at all in nearly three years.
In those three years, Adam’s band, which fell apart after Mia’s accident, has reunited and gone on to become huge. Can’t go out alone in public kind of huge. Has a movie star girlfriend kind of huge. But he is still absolutely shattered over what he feels is Mia’s betrayal. After all they’d been through together, how could she possibly just disappear like that?
And, of course, part of him knows that he offered just this scenario to her in order to convince her to stay (although she was in a coma at the time). And even more ironic is the fact that the songs that shot them to stardom are ones he wrote in the emotional abyss following the end of their relationship. No wonder he can’t escape thinking about her – every thing about his career, which has become his whole life, is about Mia.
Adam is in New York with one free day before he goes off on the next international tour and, as if by fate, he reconnects with Mia. She has just graduated and is launching her music career. And so here they are, together for one evening, while Adam tries to wrestle his feelings for Mia into some sort of sense. He still loves her, maybe, but he is also so incredibly angry with her for deserting him.
I was seriously worried about this book – would it weaken If I Stay for me? And yes, maybe it does a tiny bit because I love If I Stay as a standalone novel. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t thrilled to hear there would be more to this story.
I think Gayle Forman’s writing is just astoundingly good in both books. There is a lot of back and forth in this book between the present and Adam’s memories of the past, both the years since the accident and his relationship with Mia before the car crash that turned both of their lives upside down, and yet all of it is so crystal clear. The effortless combination of the past and the present was just as good here as it was in If I Stay. Both of these books feel so natural to me, as all the little memories, the small moments combine into one very strong and unforced story line.
And Adam is so . . . exactly what I thought he would be based on Mia’s view of him from If I Stay. The emotional roller coaster he’s been on for the past three years is just as realistic as it could possibly be and the way he reacts to both Mia’s leaving and now their unexpected reunion is perfect.
Each chapter begins with a few lyrics from one of Adam’s songs (the songs that transported him to rock star status) and usually lyrics make me cringe, but these were fantastic. I wish they were real songs that I could listen to on Pandora or something.
I will say that the ending fell slightly flat for me. Where If I Stay finished on such a high note for me, this one didn’t quite make it. I’m not sure what I would have wanted instead, but this wasn’t exactly it. Close, but not quite.
Also, there is no question that this is a book for a slightly more mature audience. It’s not at all gratuitous or explicit, but you definitely are aware that Adam has lived the rockstar life, at least to some degree.
I’ve read If I Stay twice already, which is extremely rare for me, since I do very little re-reading, but I’m planning to read it again this year. I just can’t help myself. The more distance I get from Where She Went, the more I just fall in love with these two stories all over again.
Also, this cover? I love it. I know it’s gotten some flack for having Mia on the front when this is Adam’s story, but his whole story is Mia. Even in those years when she’s not around, her memory is a constant presence in his life. And I just love this pretty pretty cover.
My librarian brain thought a lot about this book and where it fits in a library collection. It’s being promoted as young adult book and it’s the sequel to a very-definitely YA book, but the characters in this book are now three (and four) years out of high school. Mia is done with college. Both of them have real careers. You don’t see a lot of YA books with main characters this old (and this is most certainly aimed at an older YA audience).What a giant nerd I am.
Copy sent to me by the utterly fantastic Abby (the) Librarian