A moving story about heartache, anger, grief and love that was very hard to put down.
We normally don’t publish reviews before the release of a book, but due to next month’s focus on Australian authors, I’ve pushed the date forward for this book. If it’s not yet available in your bookshop, I hope you check again next week.
I won’t lie. I read the ending first. And it’s a good thing I did because Where She Went is an emotional, tear-jerking delight of a read, and it would have been a shame if I’d passed it up.
Twenty-one year old Adam Wilde is at the peak of his career—multi-platinum rock star, stalked by press, half of a celebrity couple—and he’s on the brink of a breakdown. He’s popping anti-anxiety pills, he loses it in front of a tabloid reporter and he barely even talks to the rest of the band.
Three years ago, his childhood sweetheart, Mia Hill, dumped him without explanation. A gifted cellist, Mia survived a horrific crash that killed her parents and younger brother, and although Adam was an integral part of her recovery, one day she just let him go.
She left for Julliard the day after Labor Day. I drove her to the airport. She kissed me good-bye. She told me that she loved me more than life itself. Then she stepped through security.
She never came back.
It’s clear Adam still feels the loss deeply.
It’s almost a miracle when random bits of fate has Adam following Mia around New York City on her ‘farewell tour’ of the city before embarking on her first professional solo tour. And although they skate around their past, it’s inevitable that the only way for them to heal is to confront the love they lost.
Seen from Adam’s point of view, the narrative includes flashbacks in which Adam recalls his relationship with Mia, the events around her accident, and his band’s rise to success. Gayle Forman’s lyrical style succeeds in guiding the reader through the transitions smoothly. Despite the harshness of Adam’s anger, Forman weaves a dreamy quality to the prose, capturing the sense of unreality and fragility that Adam feels on this last night with the girl he has never forgotten.
Music permeates the narrative—not surprising, given that Adam is a guitar player and Mia a cellist. But beyond that, music is also a metaphor for the love they shared, of Adam’s heartbreak and guilt, of Mia’s grief and catharsis, and eventually of healing.
Suddenly, all the shit from the day comes ricocheting back—Vanessa and Bryn and the bump watches and Shuffle and the looming sixty-seven days of separate hotels and awkward silences and playing shows with a band behind me that no longer has my back.
And it’s like, Mia, don’t you get it? The music is the void. And you’re the reason why.
There’s a devastating kind of beauty in Adam’s anger, but he never loses my sympathy—or empathy. Even when he’s a dickhead, his self-condemnation mitigates his actions because we can see it’s coming from an outpouring of profound grief. It’s the grief and guilt simmering beneath the anger that make his character so compelling.
Nevertheless, Forman’s lyricism doesn’t quite mask a certain lack of depth in the story. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment—or stop the tears—but I felt a niggling sense that there were missed opportunities to add more layers to the story. And because Adam’s reunion with Mia tiptoes around the real issue between them, the resolution feels rushed by comparison. It’s as if Forman, in trying to keep the reader guessing, doles out too few tidbits and we’re left to absorb what really happened in the space of fifty-odd pages.
It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I discovered it’s actually a sequel to If I Stay, which covers the accident from Mia’s point of view (while in a coma). You don’t need to read the first book to appreciate Where She Went, but if you can bear the tears, I’m told it’s worth starting from the beginning. Perhaps it will provide that extra bit of depth I was looking for in this novel.
Perhaps I just need to read it again.
(Check out 1girl2manybooks’s review from the point of view of someone who is reading this as a sequel.)
Yay or nay?
This is a moving story about heartache, anger, grief and love. Forman’s writing is lyrical but accessible, and the story is filled with moments and insights that tap into my own experiences, which makes the reading experience if not profound, then certainly an intensely emotional one.
A review copy of this book was generously provided by Random House Australia. This book is a sequel to If I Stay. Gayle Forman will be Inside A Dog’s writer in residence in April.
Where you can buy this book
AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | Borders | Fishpond | Pages & Pages | Readings | Click here for more bookshops
EBOOKS: Not available
WORLDWIDE: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository | Or check your local library