For What It's Worth

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

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. (YA)

I was terrified to read Where She Went. Would it be as good as If I Stay? Would it be so depressing and gut wrenching that I would left in a quivering heap on the floor when I finished?

No worries - In fact I think I loved Where She Went even more than the first book. Most of this is due to the switch to Adam’s POV. Our dear sweet Adam is in a very dark place right now. It has been three years since he’s seen Mia.  She left him but he doesn’t know why and it has left a huge void in his life.

His band has taken off, he has a beautiful movie star girlfriend so everything should be great. Instead Adam is gripped by panic attacks, he’s smoking, taking pills, throwing temper tantrums and barely speaking to any of the band members.

I enjoyed reading about Adam’s rise and fall in the music business almost as much as about his relationship with Mia. We keep seeing these young fresh faced starlets - so wholesome - become famous and then hit a downward spiral and become washed up by the time they hit their mid 20’s. Adam’s portrayal gives us a good glimpse at how this could happen to even nice kids. At first groupies throwing themselves at you is fun and a great way to forget but it quickly turns into something else and you end up barricading yourself away from people. Someone always wants something from you. The music becomes less important vs the “branding” and sales.

But back to Adam and Mia!  

One promise made in desperation. Adam made a vow to Mia if she would just wake up from her coma.

“If you stay, I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll quit the band and go with you to New York. But if you need me to go away, I’ll do that too.”.......”I’ll let you go. If you stay.”

In If I Stay Mia was in a horrific car crash that killed her entire family (mom, dad and younger brother Teddy) leaving her the lone survivor. Where She Went picks up from there letting us know what happened after Mia woke up. It’s not pretty and there was no happily ever after.

I know I’m often complaining that YA novels of late have unrealistic happily ever afters and neat conclusions. The reality is that most 17-18 year olds don’t marry their first love and stay with them forever so this development felt very real no matter how difficult it was to read.

Mia needed to get away from painful memories and that meant leaving Adam too. I don’t think I can ever come to terms with how she did it. It was a cold and cowardly way to handle it but having said that, I get her reasons. They make sense to me. I also believe that Mia is in as much pain as Adam about their separation. The guitar scene proves that Adam has always been on her mind too.

Adam has been pining for 3 long years. He has moved on somewhat but even in his choice of girlfriend is somehow tied to Mia. This could come off as whiny but what Adam & Mia went through is more than the what the average couple goes through - at any age - never mind teenagers, so I could see how that would scar Adam so much.

When Adam and Mia cross paths in NYC one seemingly unlucky Friday the 13th, Adam is at his breaking point. They spend a night in the city before they will be separated once again by obligations to their music and careers.

The prose is just beautiful and slowly unravels all the demons that these two possess. They dance around the bigger issues at first but through Adam’s flashbacks we get such a vivid picture of their relationship before and after the accident and then into Adam’s decent. Even though Mia’s family is gone they are such a large presence in this novel. I’m floored by how well Forman integrated so many views into one story without making the book feel rushed or overcrowded with characters.

When the “big” issue is confronted I admit I was pissed at Mia and her seeming indifference to what she put Adam through. Both of them are in the media spotlight now and I think they believe each other’s press image. They both think the other is doing great now. So Mia was reluctant to dredge things up again. That’s definitely not the case - for either of them.

I don’t want to spoil the end so I’ll stop here but all I can say is well done Gayle Forman! When I first heard about Where She Went I wasn’t sure a sequel was necessary and I didn’t think it could live up to it’s predecessor but I was so wrong.

Rating: 4 out of 4 Verdict - it was as good as If I Stay and yeah, there was some crying involved but I loved it.


  1. @Julie - have you read the If I Stay? I think you said you did. You have to read that one first. I really loved it. You will LOVE Adam!

  2. I'm reading this right now...about 41% done according to my Kindle. I like it a lot, but of course the second half and the end will determine if I like it as much as If I Stay!

    Glad to hear that you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing your review!

    Erin @ Quitting My Day Job

  3. I just finished reading this today!!! Honestly, I didn't like it. I was so confused while reading it: I had no idea what was going on! The ending was rushed and everything was just..fake? The situation was very real and so were the emotions, just the events and how they turned out weren't to my liking. However, I was, what did you call it? in a "quivering heap on the floor when I finished" ^_^

  4. @Kirthi - bummer. I did wish the ending had a bit more but I was satisfied and really enjoyed Adam's POV. I know there were a few people who didn't like it.

  5. I LOOOOVED Where She Went. I was afraid it wouldn't be as good, too, but Adam's voice is so strong and powerful. Geez, how I love him!

    Great review. I feel like we're Where She Went twins b/c the whole time, I kept nodding. :)

  6. Wow, even better than the first! AWesome review, Karen. Is it terrible that I have both books but haven't read them yet?

  7. I had a really hard time coming to terms on how Mia pulled away too. The only thing that made it slightly more manageable was the fact that when she explained it, it did make sense in a weird way. When she said herself, 'at first I didn't believe it was happening' or something along those lines, I remember relating to that because the same thing has happened to me, like when you lose touch with friends or even family members.

    P.S. Adam's temper tantrums really surprised me.