Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“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.”
Thoughts: The danger with any sequel, especially one as powerful as If I Stay, is that it will never live up to its predecessor and consequently diminish the impact of the entire series. Where She Went not only lives up to the first novel, it surpasses it, and that is a difficult thing to do with such an amazing first novel. Told from Adam’s point of view, we get a glimpse into the tortured soul that had begged Mia to stay. It has all of the anguish and raw emotion as the first one without its poignancy that helped temper the emotional strain on the reader. The result is a gut-punching story that leaves the reader completely wrecked at the end. This is a very good thing.
In If I Stay, the reader knows that Adam’s and Mia’s relationship is special and one of those meant to last forever. Yet, in Where She Went, Ms. Forman does not take the easy approach and chooses to show the aftermath of Mia’s decision and its far-reaching consequences. If Mia was vulnerable in the first novel, it is nothing to Adam’s fragility in his new role as rock star. Because of the relationship built between the reader and Adam in the first novel, Adam’s teeter on the edge of self-destruction is all the more horrifying. The warning signs are all there, and the reader is left fervently praying that he will not implode as so many other rock stars have before him.
Taking the perfect relationship and rending it apart is going to come with emotional baggage, and Where She Went does just that. Mia, after everything she has already had to face in her life, deserves happiness, but the reader also understands that Adam does too. Finding that balance between what is good for either character makes for one amazing roller coaster of a novel. Adam does not shy away from sharing his mistakes and faults, and the reader loves him all the more for his honesty. He is not perfect, and the reader loves him for his imperfections. Just like the reader wanted Mia to choose the path in which she would be the happiest, the reader also wants Adam to find solace and happiness after everything he has faced.
While If I Stay approaches the consequences of one tragic accident for the person in the accident, Where She Went explores the consequences of the accident on those left on the sidelines. Can someone ever truly understand how it feels to lose one’s entire family in a matter of seconds? To have faced the precipice of death versus life? How does something like this impact how you treat the survivor? What happens next? Ms. Forman addresses all of these questions with the same starkness and forthrightness as in the first novel. She pulls no punches and never deviates from the more difficult, but more honest, path. Where She Went confirms that Ms. Forman is an author to watch, as she tackled the demon of sequels and succeeded in creating a novel that is just as good, if not better, than the first.