In Gayle Forman’s WHERE SHE WENT, Mia and Adam are now living separate lives. Mia broke off things shortly after going to Julliard, and Adam has spent the past three years trying to work through his confusion and hurt. In the meantime, Adam’s band has become an international phenomenon, and Mia has become the cello virtuoso of her generation. In a chance encounter, Adam and Mia meet in New York City right before both are about to leave on world tours. In one night, the two must struggle to overcome years of pain and misunderstanding to see if any love remains.
Similar to the first book, WHERE SHE WENT packs an emotional punch with its direct, affecting prose, and the use of Adam as the first-person narrator in this installment adds emotional insight. This book provides an unflinching look at how tragedy can impact people differently, and this sequel shows characters that are more flawed and complicated. While Forman’s prose is unfettered, her attention to detail about the small things that bind people draws the reader in. The parallelism in structure between the first and the second books is also outstanding. Flashbacks are used deftly to describe what has happened in the past three years, and the older age of the characters allows for deeper, more realistic reflection. Beautiful and telling song lyrics are incorporated as chapter headings, and this was the first time I’ve read a book in which I felt that the lyrics really added to the story.
Early in my reading, I felt that I was going to like WHERE SHE WENT even better than IF IT STAY, but it didn’t have the same emotional impact ultimately. I was less able to connect to the characters this time because they had each become celebrities in their own ways, and there were a few times that Adam’s inner dialogue didn’t ring true or when conversations between he and Mia felt awkwardly worded. Though the ending will please many, it felt predictable and too easily resolved for me. Also, there were a few mishaps that jumped out, like inaccuracies regarding what strings a cello has.
Overall though, WHERE SHE WENT provides an emotionally impactful conclusion to the story of Adam and Mia and what happens to people after they continue to live in the wake of tragedy. I recommend this book heartily to anyone who loved IF I STAY or to those who embrace books with harsh emotional realities that end with a bit of hope.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.