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.
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.
Where She Went is a stunning follow-up to If I Stay, where we first met Mia Hall in an out-of-body experience, following a horrific car accident that left her parents and little brother dead, and Mia in a coma. If you’re reading this review, you’ve likely read If I Stay, and if you haven’t, you may want to wait to continue reading until you do. (You can read my review of If I Stay here.)
In Where She Went, the story is narrated by Adam: hot lyricist and guitarist of nationally-acclaimed Shooting Star, and jilted, heart-broken ex-boyfriend of renowned cellist, Mia Hall. From Adam, we learn what happened in the weeks, months, and yes, even years, after the accident. No one was left unscathed, least of all Adam.
I was completely floored by Adam’s voice – and by voice, I mean how Gayle Forman allowed him to speak through her writing. It spoke to me. He recounts, via past- and present-tense narration, the emotional and psychological fallout of his relationship with Mia, with his band, and most of all, with himself. I could feel his fury, his pain, his confusion. He really struggles internally with himself and with his feelings toward Mia. I wished I could wrap him in a big hug and tell him that it will all be okay.
For three months, I lay in my childhood bed, wishing myself as comatose as Mia had been. That had to be easier than this. My sense of shame finally roused me. I was nineteen years old, a college dropout, a layabout, a cliche. My parents had been cool about the whole thing, but the reek of my pathetic was starting to make me sick.
When Adam finally -accidentally- meets up with Mia in Manhatan, there is so much tension! I held my breath through a lot of it, waiting either for Adam to explode, or for Mia to freak out and bail. I had so many questions for Mia, but poor Adam had even more. The question we both shared, though, was simply: Why? The answer was and is not simple. As Mia and Adam traipse across Manhattan, ducking into secret gardens, obscure bowling alleys, greasy diners, and the quiet deck of the Staten Island Ferry, we learn more about what Adam and Mia have been through since they parted ways. This meandering adventure may have been my favorite part. There is a lot to be said for showing, not telling, in a story.
It was so fascinating, witnessing Adam evolve throughout his journey. He certainly went through the “Seven Stages of Grief” and while it was heart-breaking initially, it was also inspiring. I learned so much about healing and acceptance through Adam’s lyrical prose.
But I’d do it again. I know that now. I’d make that promise a thousand times over to have heard her play last night or to see her in the morning sunlight. Or even without that. Just to know that she’s somewhere out there. Alive.
Maybe it’s because I’m a bit musically-obsessed myself, but I feel like reading Where She Went was a bit like listening to a symphony. The dirge-like lows, the tentative middles, the soaring highs. Oh, and that ending… The ending was a sweet, sweet cresendo, as the harmony and melody converged, and finally, the last note faded away, leaving behind a sense of jubilation and peace.
“You?” is all I can manage to choke out.
“Always me,” she replies softly, bashfully. “Who else?”
Needless to say Where She Went left me satisfied, awe-struck, and even a little sad – but in a good way. I think Adam “Wilde Man” Wilde said it best, and I’ll leave it at this:
It’s no big dramatic before-after. It’s more like that melancholy feeling you get at the end of a really good vacation. Something special is ending, and you’re sad, but you can be that sad because, hey, it was good while it lasted, and there’ll be other vacations, other good times…