Monday, March 4, 2013
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Loved this! This is one of those books where I stayed up late reading it was so good. It reminded me a little of the movie Before Sunrise where two people walk the streets of a city talking, small talk about unimportant things at first but eventually getting to the bigger, important conversations. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Where She Went is the sequel to If I Stay, also a great book. One of the things I loved about If I Stay was the family, parents Kat and Danny, their teenage daughter Mia and younger son Teddy. They are a family that gets along and where each was a well rounded, believable character. The parents are not completely oblivious, the little brother is more than an annoying distraction, and Mia has more on her mind that boys and being popular. Not that they don't have their quirks or that they don't fight, it is just that it is obvious that they care about each other. They even like spending time together. The parents even like Mia's boyfriend, Adam.
Adam and Mia were brought together by their shared passion for music. He is a guitarist and songwriter on the verge of rock stardom. She is an award winning cellist. Both Adam and Mia are ambitious and realize that their future careers may take them to opposite ends of the country - Mia to Julliard in New York and Adam to Los Angeles - but that's a conversation they've decided to put off until for the moment, at least until Mia has graduated from high school. Then an accident makes that conversation irrelevant. One moment Mia and her family are enjoying a family outing, driving along Oregon's snowy streets; the next Mia is in the hospital. In If I Stay Mia watches as doctors work on her damaged body. As she watches medical staff and her family and friends come in and out of her hospital room, Mia debates whether to stay or let herself die.
Since there is a sequel you already know she decides to live. Where She Went picks up the story three years later. Mia is a budding start in the world of classical music. Adam is living his rock star dream. She seems to be doing okay, still dealing with the aftermath of the accident, but surviving, even thriving. He is a mess, heartbroken, angry, depressed, and dependent on pills and cigarettes to get through the day. While writing hit songs and playing to sold out crowds, Adam has been grieving the past three years. Even though he was not involved in the accident, he lost a lot because of it.
Forman's writing is beautiful. In less capable hands this would have been just another sad story about a pathetic loser who has nearly everything he ever dreamed of but is still unhappy. In Forman's more than capable hands Adam's pain is visceral and understandable. It feels real. So is Mia's. She made a decision that affected that them both. At first her decision seems cruel, but her reasons are equally understandable (though it takes times before her reasons are revealed). Both of Adam and Mia have suffered and are getting by as best they can.
I can't recommend this book enough. The characters felt like real people. It was emotional and compelling, hopeful but without the kind of ending where every problem is solved. This is the second book I've read by Gayle Forman and I look forward to reading more.
Also recommended, If I Stay