“Where She Went” is the second novel in Gayle Forman’s “If I Stay” series. “If I Stay,” the previous novel in the series, didn’t really impress me that much despite some moments I thought were well done, though I can vouch that many of my peers and several young adults I know loved every moment of it. When I heard that this installment of the series would take the story in a different direction and come from Adam’s perspective, I decided to give it a shot. Particularly since I liked Adam’s voice and wondered where time would take both Mia and Adam respectively in their relationship.
Having finished the story, I’m really glad I read it. Beautifully written, evocative, and with a strong protagonist voice whose road to recognizing what he wants and finding love again was rewarding to follow and heartbreaking at the same time. It surprised me, coming across as a much stronger, more rooted novel than the previous book in the series.
In this story, Adam and Mia have gone their separate ways in life – Mia a rising cellist at Julliard, while Adam faces the pressures of what a well-known rock band in the mainstream typically has to contend with. In the light of stardom, Adam’s star falls hard. Between tabloid reports, the pressures of fame, and the weight of Mia’s abrupt disappearance from his life, Adam doesn’t have a lot to be happy for, so he lashes out in ways that don’t make matters much better for him. I could understand the flaws in his character through the novel – Forman weaves them very well and doesn’t overdo them. This is probably one of the few YA novels I’ve read, alongside India Lee’s [b:Hidden Gem|11805383|Hidden Gem|India Lee|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1308848433s/11805383.jpg|16758705], that have been able to show how crude the relationship between an up and coming young musician and the public can be, as well as the pressure to cope with fame and living a somewhat normal life in the process.
When Mia suddenly pops back in his life, Adam realizes that all he really wants are answers in the midst of the complications his life has taken since Mia left him behind, and those answers bring much more than he bargained for. Where I hadn’t really felt the conviction behind the losses in the previous novel, this one brought them front and center, and when the momentum started, it didn’t slow down. The flashbacks presented had the same sequencing in this one – weaving between the past and the present in certain turns of the story. I think with Adam’s account, though, it worked better. Forman presents them in a logical fashion that proves more pertinent to the story told, and, if anything, actually builds upon Mia’s experiences and character from the previous novel even while Adam takes the reins of telling this story. That’s something I didn’t think would come across as strongly and why I think this novel improved upon the former in a great way.
The musical inclusions resonated with me as well. I liked the snippets of the songs peppered through the story, particularly since they coincided very well with certain dramatic turns.
“Where She Went” was a wonderful read on the whole – certainly a story I would return to and consider one of my favorites.
Overall score: 4.5/5