Sunday 22 September 2013

#CBR5 Book 118. "Where She Went" by Gayle Forman

Page count: 274 pages
Rating: 4 stars

This is the sequel to If I Stay, and both this book and this review unavoidably contain spoilers about the ending. So if you want to avoid spoilers, or haven't read the first book in the series yet, skip this review.

Three years ago Adam Wilde's girlfriend Mia was in a car accident and lost her entire family. She nearly died as well. While she was in a coma, Adam pleaded with her to wake up, and said he'd even live with her leaving him, if she would just stay alive. Mia woke up from the coma, left Oregon for New York and is now a lauded prodigy having graduated Julliard early.

After dropping out of college and caring about nothing for quite some time after their breakup, Adam then poured all his emotions about the loss of Mia (and her family) into song lyrics, and his band went from being Indie darlings played at college radio stations to a platinum selling sensation touring stadiums world wide. Now dating a talented actress/producer, Adam lives in LA and is constant tabloid fodder. He barely speaks to the other members of the band, copes with the stress of fame with pills and alcohol and has a reputation as a real bad boy. When he's spending one night alone in New York, before heading off to London for another tour, Adam meets Mia again for the first time since they broke up. She's about to go on tour as well, starting in Japan. She invites him to come along as she says goodbye to all her favourite New York haunts.

So to get the big SPOILER for the end of If I Stay out of the way. Mia lives, but despite Adam's obvious love for her, she doesn't stay with him. She goes off to New York, without even giving him proper closure - she just stops talking to him, and doesn't return home for Christmas. If I Stay was entirely from Mia's POV, Where She Went is entirely from Adam's. Most of the chapters start with excerpts from the lyrics Adam wrote after he dug himself out of the worst depression after the breakup (as I - to the husband's great sorrow - am not all that into music as anything but background noise, I can't speak for the quality or lack thereof of said song lyrics). With "Collateral Damage", Adam's lamely named band "Shooting Star" became mega rock stars, and it's quite clear that Adam hasn't really enjoyed the rise to fame and stardom.

He's clearly unhappy in his relationship with his movie star girlfriend, who despite all that he tries to tell himself has 'rebound girl' written all over her perfect face. Because the press decided that "Shooting Star" really only were a backup band for Adam, who as song writer, lead singer and lead guitarist might be seen as doing all the heavy lifting, his band barely speak to him anymore. They usually stay at separate hotels during their tours. Adam has trouble sleeping, and goes through life on a cocktail of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. He's never gotten over Mia, and seeing her again makes him a big ol' mess.

While Adam occasionally comes across as a giant emo whiner, who should thank his lucky stars for the awesome friends he has and the insane success he's been lucky enough to experience, the story never fails to make the reader sympathetic to him as well. While they weren't his actual biological family, Mia's parents and brother dying in that car accident affected him greatly as well. Staying by her side as she recovered, trying to be supportive, and then having her just dump him without any explanation - it's no wonder the boy is gutted. It's also not surprising that like so many other young people suddenly thrust into super stardom, Adam doesn't always handle it as well as he should.

Mia and Adam exploring New York together at night reminded me of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and for all that the book deals with heart break, it's also very romantic. It's clear that Adam and Mia, despite their various unfortunate decisions, are meant to be together. This is another YA book that in the hands of a lesser writer could have been trite and cliched, but instead was engaging and sweet.

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