View from the window seat:
In this sequel to If I Stay, it’s been three years since the tragic accident that took Mia’s family from her and three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life. Mia has excelled at Julliard and is poised to begin a solo tour. Adam’s band has rocketed to stardom, giving him fame and an even more famous girlfriend. On the night before both are about to embark on their tours, they collide in New York for one last night to revisit their past.
After I read If I Stay, everyone was like “ahhhh Where She Went is EVEN BETTER and you will FEEL MORE FEELS.” I think this set me up for disappointment, except I’m not really disappointed but more underwhelmed with the sequel. This is going to be a strange review, because my thoughts are kind of jumbled so I’m probably going to be jumping back and forth a bit.
Let’s start with Adam. He’s the narrator this time, rather than Mia, and I think this is one my main sources of underwhelming. I simply didn’t connect with Adam as much as I did with Mia. I felt so with Mia, her every thought and emotion, and with Adam I was just kind of…disinterested. I just didn’t enjoy his voice as much.
I also felt that there was a lot less depth to this book than to If I Stay. Of course, this makes sense, since the first book deals with immediate aftermath of tragedy and this one is more about the long-term effects. Though it made to sense to me, it also made the book resonate with me a lot less.
Gayle Forman’s writing is what really kept me reading. I’m still in love with her sparse, clean prose. She manages to pull truths about life from every interaction of her characters in a way that surprises and comforts readers. The feelings of Adam and Mia are so real and their actions given the circumstances so natural that I believe her characters.
When I finally put the book down (I raced through it in a single sitting), I thought about all the ways that it didn’t live up to If I Stay. But then I thought about how open-ended If I Stay was, how Forman left us with a plethora of opportunities and chances that Adam and Mia could take. If I had to make up an ending to their story after If I Stay, they would’ve stayed together forever (I’m a sucker for the happy ending, something my writing professors pointed out as unrealistic in my fiction writing courses). Where She Went was to me much the same as the events it told were to Adam and Mia: closure. I needed to know the rest of the story, I needed to see why they would separate, but also why and how they would come back together again. That’s what happens when you fall in love with book characters: you need to check back in with them, and you need closure.
Where She Went didn’t affect me with the same magnitude as If I Stay did, but ultimately, I found it to be a worthy sequel to a heartbreaking story.