"Where She Went" by Gayle Forman [PG Review]

Where She Went
$6.70
By Gayle Forman

Although Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay, it worked just fine on its own for me, since the story line of the first book was explained through flashbacks. If I Stay is told from Mia's point of view, while Where She Went continues the story from Adam's perspective.

Synopsis of Where She Went

Adam is a stereotypical rock star. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. After all, the word 'stereotype' has some negative connotations, but some stereotypes do seem to be based on general truths and recognized patterns of behavior. That said, Adam is an arrogant, angry, self-absorbed, substance abusing, addicted to his meds celebrity who is chock full o' angst. But he has a 'reason' for his self-destructive behavior - the great love of his life, Mia, dumped him a few years ago without so much as a by-your-leave. His downward spiral has fueled his muse and propelled him to stardom, but at the price of healthy relationships with family and friends.

Mia has become a successful cellist, but without the damaging patterns of  behavior that her former boyfriend Adam exhibits. Then Adam visits one of her concerts, and a reunion begins that allows them both to deal with their past issues and find healing.

Commentary:

I have difficulties with books that are full of melodrama. The extremes of love, grief, and anger don't ring true to me, especially when we are talking about a guy who mourns a break up with his girlfriend by going to bed for 3 months and letting everyone take care of him. He finally punches a hole in the wall and starts channeling his pain into music. Okaaaayyy.

All this passion and rage had me wondering about the Mysterious Secret of why Mia left Adam. It felt like it was going to be compelling, and the flashbacks were building tension toward the Big Reveal. But when Mia finally confides to Adam the reason for her sudden and silent abdication, I was underwhelmed.

And I am still not sure why Mia has a restraining order against Adam.

I thought the writing was pretty, descriptive, and engaging, in part as a result of the story being written in first person present tense, which gives the story immediacy. If you quarantine the critical thinking section of your brain, and are reading purely for enjoyment, you could easily lose yourself in the story.

Sensitive, Mature, or Objectionable Content:

  • Sexual situations or references: Adam has no shortage of "sweet little numbers" available to him, is living with a woman 7 years older than he is. He imagines Mia's eyes in the eyes of every girl he has "laid on top of", has a flashback of trying to engage in sex with Mia in the past, and there are passionate smoochies at the end between Adam and Mia.
  • Graphic violence/gore- nothing graphic, but Adam freaks out on a reporter, and it is mentioned that he has trashed hotel rooms.
  • Substance use: Adam smokes, "needs" his cigarettes, has a "liquid lunch", takes anti-anxiety medications whenever he is stressed, pats his pill bottle for comfort, can't sleep without meds, thinks he may be going down the same path as Joplin, Morrison... there is also underage drinking.
  • Profanities and obscenities: 19 scatalogical, 16 anatomical, 9 profanities, 10 f* words.
  • Crude language or actions- a woman is referred to as a 'dyke', the reporter is 'hot' and has a 'tramp stamp'. Adam has a bad temper and displays it regularly. Actors are "insecure" or "gay".
  • Death: Adam and Mia deal with death very differently. Mia seems to be grieving her family in a healthy way and channels her passions into her cello, while Adam mourns their loss (he was genuinely fond of them and very connected) as well as the 'loss' of Mia by being alternately petulant and violent. He drowns his sorrows in music, fame, and pills.
  • Inner conflict: Mia deals with the loss of her family and seems to be moving on with her life, while Adam stews in his melancholy. Mia feels that music fills the void insider her, while Adam believes music is the void. It certainly does seem to be swallowing him whole.

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