Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman (@gayleforman)

Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay by Gayle Forman. In If I Stay, the protagonist, Mia, gets into a horrific car accident with the rest of her family, and the book is about her decision to return to her life, such as it is, or to succumb to her injuries. Where She Went picks up three years later, with a different protagonist, and I can’t really tell you anything else without spoiling If I Stay. So if you haven’t read it and you don’t like spoilers, stop reading here and come back after you’ve read If I Stay. You can read my review of it here.

The Plot (from Goodreads):

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.

My Thoughts

Strange as it sounds, considering no one is fighting for their life in this one (at least physically speaking), I found this book much harder to read than If I Stay. Reading about Adam’s struggles in the years since the accident, after seeing what he was like before then, was just heartbreaking. And honestly, even though I liked Mia in If I Stay and was rooting for her, I kind of hated her in this book. Partially because Adam didn’t hate her, and I wanted him to. I understood from Mia’s perspective why she acted the way she had, but since the story is told from Adam’s POV, I just ached for him.

And Adam…oh Adam. He was a bit of a knight in shining armor in If I Stay, the kind of character you really need to have a happy ending. But the three years between the two stories have not been kind to him, and he made a lot of bad decisions. I kind of wanted to throttle him in his flashbacks, keep him from going down paths I knew were going to mean nothing but trouble. But I couldn’t, and he screwed up over and over, and it was frustrating and annoying and real.

The one problem I had with the book, other than that it made me feel feelings I’d rather not have (which, to be clear, means it succeeded), was that while the emotions were extremely real and visceral, the external events were a bit hard to swallow. I had a hard time buying that Adam became a famous rock star and Mia a world-class cellist within the 3-year span following the accident (especially considering the physical rehabilitation Mia would have needed). Is it possible? Yes. People become famous, and people date people that also become famous. But that these people would become famous…I don’t know. It seemed like a bit of a stretch. I kind of wish it had been more a case of two people bumping into each other than two famous people being able to follow each other’s lives and seek each other out because they are famous.

And the only other issue is that after spending the entire book working towards the ending, I was left wanting more. After all those painful emotions, I needed something more to balance it out. But I can’t say this is a criticism of the book — shouldn’t all good books leave us wanting more?

I’d have a hard time determining whether I preferred If I Stay or Where She Went, because while they feature the same characters in the same timeline of events, they are two very different books. It feels like an apples-to-oranges comparison. So I’ll just say that Where She Went, once again, made me have all sorts of feelings, both uplifting and painful, made me connect with realistic and interesting characters, and left me thinking for a long time afterward.

Content Guide: Contains profanity, drug use, mentions of sex