I admit, when I first heard that Gayle Forman was writing a sequel to her lovely If I Stay, I was not on board. If I Stay is, in many ways, an unbelievably good book. The description of the novel evokes more Lifetime movie than intelligent, character-driven story, but If I Stay is exactly that. Mia, her boyfriend and her family felt so real to me and the story of their tragic car accident was not simply a conceit to manipulate the reader, but rather a storytelling device that allows the readers to explore the deepest grief possible with Mia.
But could Gayle Forman really pull that off twice? I should have had more faith in her, because Where She Went is just as good as If I Stay, and sometimes, it’s better. At this point, if you have not read If I Stay, I suggest you stop now. There will be unavoidable spoilers for If I Stay in this review. Where She Went picks up three years after Mia’s accident. Instead of being narrated by Mia, Where She Went is narrated by her boyfriend Adam, a brilliant move. Adam has become a famous rock musician and Mia a famous cellist, but they are no longer together. While Adam originally poured all of his grief and emotion into writing a best-selling record, now he’s being forced to face the reality of what happened between him and Mia.
Where She Went takes place over one night and there are plenty of coincidences. There are many plot points, from the fame that Mia and Adam have found to their coincidental run-in, that are unbelievable, but I’m not really sure that’s the point. The point is not that Forman is telling a believable story plot-wise, but rather an emotionally realistic story. There is not an easy happy ending in either If I Stay or Where She Went, life is not that simple. Mia and Adam both deal and speak of grief in a way that feels so real and palpable. I am consistently amazed by what Forman can do as a writer and storyteller. When you are reading it, Forman makes you feel it and that is the mark of a talented writer.
So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve read everything else
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