Sunday, 8 March 2015

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

If I Stay Series

Published: April 5th 2011 
Publisher:  Dutton Juvenile /Penguin Audio
Series: If I Stay
Format: Audiobook, Unabridged
Narrated By: Dan Bittner

Quick Review

Three years after the end of Mia and Adam’s relationship, Adam happens upon one of Mia’s concerts and watches her play her cello. They rekindle their friendship, not talking about what has happened, even though Adam needs to know why Mia abandoned him.

            Where She Went is different than its predecessor in many ways. The focus is so different, it’s hard to say if I would have enjoyed it if I had never read If I Stay. If I Stay has an interesting mix of character drama and the afterlife (without there actually being any definite afterlife). Where She Went lost most of the intrigue about being in limbo. Sure, the book tries, giving glimpses into Mia’s opinions/feelings about her experience and the death of her family, but it falls flat. What it does well mirrors what the first book also did well – character-driven drama.

            Instead of the protagonist being Mia, this book was from Adam’s first-person POV. Mia didn’t stand out to me, but Adam and the book’s narrator, Dan Bittner, was much better. I find Adam has more personality than Mia, even though he can be creepy, at least he is interesting. Three years is a bit long to be hung up on someone, though. Maybe so much time shouldn’t have passed, though the author probably had to have her graduated or near graduation for this story to work. Adam lives in a self-destructive world that gets old really quick, and there are three whole years to listen/read about. Adam isn’t like other people with usual ex-partner situations, where you acknowledge that they are probably living and probably happy but you couldn’t care less either way. And this is Adam’s problem; a student could write an interesting paper about the unhealthy relationship they hold on each other.  

            I hated Mia in this book. Her decisions and her actions hurt Adam, and you can criticise Adam for handling it poorly all you want, but the fault falls on Mia for being a terrible person. People break up all the time, and at least one person is usually crushed. But, Mia, seriously? I couldn’t believe what she did. It didn’t fit her character either, but the reader is blindsided as much as Adam was, so that experience is realistic.
What I did like was how Mia became the antagonist. Yes, there are other characters that are halting Adam’s progress (in life), but Mia is the worst figure here, even though she is presenting herself as her familiar, sweet self.

            Perhaps it is Adam’s cynical thoughts and reckless behaviour, but I liked the writing more in Where She Went. Even when he scared me when he thinks this:
“And I have to fight the urge to take her by the shoulders and slam her against a shuttered building until we feel the vibrations ringing through both of us. Because I suddenly want to hear her bones rattle. I want to feel the softness of her flesh give, to hear her gasp as my hip bone jams into her. I want to yank her head back until her neck is exposed. I want to rip my hands through her hair until her breath is labored. I want to make her cry and then lick up the tears. And then I want to take my mouth to hers, to devour her alive, to transmit all the things she can’t understand.”

Crazy? Yes. Interesting? Yes. It was creepy to listen to when I was walking home at night in the city. 

Final Verdict
Read this book if you really want to close the story from If I Stay. This book lacks the wonderful ambiguity that made readers think about the afterlife, if Mia should choose to live or pass on, and if she should stay with Adam. While I like Dan Bittner’s delivery and I like Adman’s cynicism, there was a lot of whining coming from Adam. There is only so much a reader can take. I wonder though, if this is because I am an adult now, and some books that I loved as a teen I can no longer stand now (cough*Palahniuk *). Maybe I would have found him more tolerable as a teen – and maybe this is a voice that teens will love, it’s hard to say. For a book club pick, I’d only use it if previous participants really loved the first one and they really want to read the next one together.

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