Adam tells us Where She Went in sequel

Where She Went by Gayle Forman; published by Dutton Books, a member of Penguin Group, New York, 2011; 260 pages.

SPOILER ALERT! This book is the sequel to If I Stay. If you have not read the first book, be aware that I refer to how that book ends as I summarize Where She Went.

Adam “Wilde Man” Wilde is the front man for the insanely popular Shooting Star.  He’s a rock star, living the rock star life with Bryn, a gorgeous actress.  He’s on top of the world, or at least, he should be.  The public can’t get enough of him and the press won’t stop digging until they get the dirt behind the raw, emotional debut album, Collateral Damage.  Why did Adam write such intensely emotional music?  And why is Adam alienated from his band mates?  Mia.  It’s all because of Mia Hall.  She survived a horrific car accident that took her family away.  He promised her he’d leave her alone if she would just choose to stay.  She did.  And then she put the entire United States between her and Adam, choosing to study at Julliard and leaving Adam behind in Oregon.  She chose her cello over him.  Before heading out of New York for the European leg of Shooting Star’s tour, Adam sees Mia in concert.  She knows he’s there and calls for him to meet her.  How do you act around the love of your life who left you three years earlier?  Adam doesn’t know, but he’s about to find out.

I was literally moved to tears by If I Stay.  Forman’s spare, emotional style hit the core of loss, survival and grief.  How could she possibly think a sequel was a good idea?  Well, it was a brilliant idea.

Written from Adam’s perspective this time, Forman’s exquisite choice of words exposes the raw emotion of surviving tragedy and having no support system to get through the grief.  The depth of his pain is so raw it’s almost hard to read.  Walking with Adam through his coping strategies, including cigarettes and prescription drugs, is tough; he’s supposed to be the rock, the strong one, as we grew to know him from Mia’s perspective.  Mia is no longer an object of pity; for most of the book, she walks the edge of the villain blade.  How could she leave him?  And the way she left him seems inexcusable.

By the time I closed the cover, I couldn’t decide which book I preferred.  It’s interesting that both books work well together but could also stand alone ; that’s an unusual feat.  However, I also wondered how fair it is to compare the two since I listened to the audio version of If I Stay.  In that version, bits of cello music helped carry Mia’s story and I believe the music was responsible for my emotional response.  I wonder if Adam’s anguish is expressed in rock licks in the audio version of Where She Went?  I may have to give this book a listen too.

Because this book takes place three years after the original story, Mia and Adam are both well out of high school.  High school aged readers will still be interested in Where She Went, but I think the story will also appeal to the college crowd, especially those who’ve left a high school sweetheart behind.  I also think it will be on some of YALSA’s lists for 2011, including the Teens’ Top Ten; watch for this one!

5P     5Q     Grade Level: 9-12+

Cover Art: The wind blown image of Mia on the cover is explained near the end of the book, representing a bit of a turning point for Adam.  The cloudy sky behind her helps set the emotional turmoil of the story.  I think the image of Mia will generate interest in the book, as well as the reputation of the first book.

From Reading List: Survival in Love, War or Sports


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