Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Review and Interview: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

I cannot review Where She Went by Gayle Forman without spoiling some aspects of If I Stay. If you haven't yet read If I Stay, you really should.

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 Julliard'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.

Oh my god, this book. If I Stay was one of my favourite ever books. It was so sad and beautiful and sometimes just thinking about the events of that book (TEDDY!) will make tears spring to my eyes all this time later. So when I heard that Gayle Forman was writing a sequel, I was at once thrilled and also nervous. I knew I'd love returning to Adam and Mia's story, but I was also really scared that Where She Went wouldn't live up to the huge emotional impact that If I Stay had on me.

If you have that same worry, don't. Put that thought out of your mind forever. Where She Went is absolutely captivating and is filled with such heartbreak and sadness but also the same beauty and hope that stole my heart with If I Stay. Once I'd picked up Where She Went, I knew that I wouldn't be capable of putting it down until I'd finished it. Gayle Forman has done it again. In some ways, I sort of love Where She Went more than If I Stay. I just loved coming back to Adam and Mia and exploring their lives and their relationship in more detail.

Where She Went takes place three years after Mia's car accident. Adam gave that beautiful, heart-breaking speech and Mia stayed. But they didn't stay together. In fact, they've barely spoken in the three years since. Mia went off to Julliard and Adam's band really takes off and Adam is always in the press with his new rock-star lifestyle. One night in New York, they bump into each other and come to terms with what happened to them, what's happened since and if they have a future together...

I love that this book is told from Adam's perspective. He has no idea why Mia broke up with him and never returned his phone calls. He's been holding onto his grief and confusion and channelled some of it into his song lyrics. He should be really happy that his music career has been so successful and with his famous girlfriend, but he isn't. The whole experience has changed him and he's no longer that perfect boyfriend from If I Stay.

The tension between Adam and Mia as they spend this one night wandering around the city just crackles off the pages. There's so much left unsaid between them. And as they visit some of Mia's favourite spots in the city, we see flashes of Adam's life in the last three years. How he reacts when Mia dumps him, how his band become so famous, how he meets his celebrity girlfriend. And we get to know slowly the things that Mia has done and is doing at Julliard, who she spends her time with.

But as the reader all I wanted to know was WHY, WHY, WHY?! did they break up? And my need to know the answers to solve that mystery is so large and the build-up towards it left me breathless with anticipation. And I wasn't disappointed. Everything from Adam's thoughts and his actions are just so believable. His pain is very real and when Mia opens up and starts explaining the reasons she did the things she did, I was completely behind her as well. In fact I love how strong Mia turns out to be and the lengths she's gone to in order to move on from the accident and not let that one event in her life define her.

Such a beautiful book with wonderfully flawed characters in a heartbreaking situation. I can't recommend Where She Went enough. Adam and Mia have stolen a piece of my heart.


Interview with Gayle Forman

Holy crap guys, I've been given the absolute honour of interviewing Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay and Where She Went right here on my blog! How cool is that?

Gayle Forman
Gayle Forman on twitter
Random House Kids

Can you tell me a little bit about Where She Went?

Where She Went, is, I suppose, the sequel to If I Stay, but to me it felt like an entirely new book because this is Adam's story. The book takes place three years later, it is told from Adam's point of view, and while readers will learn what happened to Mia in the intervening three years, it is very much about Adam's own journey. And very much a story about the price of unconditional love. At the end of If I Stay, Adam makes a promise to Mia. That promise had some serious consequences that neither of them could really foresee. This book is all about living down the consequences of that promise.

I love how music influences and shapes both Mia and Adam's lives. How important has music been in your life/writing career?

I'm not, nor have I ever been, a musician. I hardly go to shows anymore (I'm too old; I'm too tired by 11 p.m. and my kids wake up at the crack dawn with no consideration of how late I've stayed up) and I'm not that up on the latest bands. But music still has the capacity to get to a primal emotional side of me in a way that nothing else can. Having fallen in love with a guitar player (and, dear reader, married him) it might explain why band boys were the love interests in my first three novels. I still have no idea why Mia showed up as a cello player. When she arrived in my head, fully formed, as a cellist, I was like, really? But I don't think music will be in all my books. With Mia and Adam, the characters were all so musical, so the musical references just arrived organically. The new book I'm writing on doesn't have any musicians in it or much music. And yet...I'm listening to as much music while writing it as I did with If I Stay (Where She Went I wrote mostly in silence, in part because I think Adam was so estranged from music). I'm currently obsessed with Mumford & Sons and am finding that it's the perfect emotional complement to the story I'm now working on. So, I guess the short answer to your question is: Very Important.

There's such heartbreak in Where She Went! Did you have a favourite scene that you wrote or an aspect of the novel that you went back to repeatedly in order to get it right?

To be honest, I had to work and rework a lot of this book. But I actually enjoyed working on the bridge scene even as I went over it again and again. So much of Adam's dialogue takes place in his head. And there's so much buildup. Adam doesn't know what's going on with Mia. Why she did what she did. And the reader doesn't know, either. There's frustration there. There's so much buildup leading to that bridge scene. So when it finally explodes—Adam, first, finally getting up the nerve to speak his mind, Mia almost relieved that he did so and finding the courage to be honest—it was very satisfying. This is probably the most intense scene in the whole book, maybe the most painful, and yet for Adam, this is the moment of breakthrough. So it was a very exciting scene to write.

There's a bit in the novel where Mia talks about her family's voices that have stayed with her. Is there anyone that you would say whose voice stays with you?

I haven't lost close relatives like Mia, but I have lost people close to me, people I loved very much. And I was surprised by how years later, I could still hear their voices so clearly. I don't talk to them the way Mia talks to her family but I still felt them near. I understood that as long as I kept them alive in my head, by thinking of them, by summoning the sounds of their voices, in some way, they would stay with me, they would stay alive to me.

Mia and Adam are on this journey over one night to visit all of Mia's special New York places. If you were saying goodbye to NYC, where would you visit?

Mia and Adam do my favorite thing, which is what my husband and I call "tooling" around. So I don't know that I'd want to do any single thing so much as just wander around, absorb the energy of the city. Though I'd want to do it in the daytime.

There's the sense that Adam is quite superstitious and a little wary of lucky/unlucky things. Is that something that you and he share?

Umm, yeah. I'm not quite that bad.I don't have issues about sirens or hats on the bed and both of my daughters have birthdays on the 13th—and the oldest was born on a Friday—so I think Friday the 13ths are lucky. But I'm Jewish. And we Jews are sort of a superstitious lot. Believers in the evil eye and all that. And I can see where that kind of magical thinking (or the opposite of magical thinking) could spiral out of control the way it has for Adam and the reasons why it has for Adam.

Did you draw any of the fame aspects of Adam's life from your own experiences as a best-selling author? :)

Oh, yes, the paparazzi camped outside my apartment are so tiresome ;) No, really. My life is terribly un-glamorous. I spend half my day working, the other half of my day being a mum and sometimes they overlap—like right now, I'm warning my little one not to play with toilet paper and to get back to bed as I write this—so there is no fame in my life that is remotely like Adam's. Maybe it's because authors are so anonymous and not hounded, but I feel nothing of the resentment he does about his fans. I LOVE my readers. I'm so totally grateful to them for allowing me to do what I love to do. I suppose if there's one tiny thing that Adam and I have in common it's his fear of living up to a bestselling album. When he freaks out about the reporter asking him if he's worried that his new album can match the intensity of Collateral Damage, well that might be a little bit of me worrying about people liking anything after the intensity of If I Stay. Me and Adam, we're working that out together.


Amazing responses, thank you Gayle! Let me tell you, your worries about Where She Went, from my perspective anwyay are entirely unfounded! I've been crying whilst writing this review just remembering how beautiful the book is. Thank you.


  1. Wonderful review and interview! I loved this book too and reviewed it on my blog as well. I thought it would be near impossible to follow up If I Stay with something that packed an equal punch. I think telling the story from Adam's point of view was the only way to really do it right. Where She Went gave both characters so much more depth and I loevd watching them mature, both together and apart. Such a wonderful story!

  2. Awesome! I've read If I stay, so I can't wait to read Where She Went!

  3. Avid Reader - I completely agree, I can't quite see how it could have been told from Mia's point of view again and still maintain the level of depth in both characters. I'm so in love with this book right now!

    Becca - Oh, it's fantastic, I hope you find a copy very soon :)

  4. What a great interview and review. Another book to add to my list. x

  5. fab awesome book - you always come up with some cracking questions for author interviews

  6. Susan - Thank you! You really must read it, this book is incredible!!

    Kirsty - Thank you! *blushes*

  7. I just read If I Stay, and I have to get my hands on a copy of Where She Went ASAP! I had tears in my eyes at several points of If I Stay, it was so good.

  8. Julianne - Really? Just tears in your eyes? I absolutely BAWLED my way through If I Stay. And I really do believe that Where She Went had the same if not higher level of emotionality that I loved about If I Stay. The heartbreak! Oh.

  9. Such a great review! I read If I Stay a few weeks ago, and it was so amazing. I've been a little bit nervous about starting the follow-up book, but now I'm really sure I'll love it. I can't wait to read more about Mia! (Though I know this book is going to break my heart like If I Stay did...)
    And wow such a brilliant interview! Loved all of the questions & answers!
    -Georgia :)

    1. YES, it will break your heart. I cried MORE reading Where She Went than I did reading If I Stay if you can believe that.


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