Book Review: Where She Went

I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club review, but all opinions expressed are my own.

I’m a sucker for a story of love lost.

To me, finally finding the person you’re madly in love with (and who loves you back) and then losing them is the most tragic thing I can think of. (This is why since meeting Joey I can’t handle movies/books/TV shows about spouses dying. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close? Sorry, won’t be seeing it. And if I need a good cry, I really only need to think about this post from one of my favorite blogs.)

The point is, I can get behind the idea of longing and regret and what it would feel like to miss someone so deeply you don’t really know what to do with yourself.

Which, incidentally, is what so much of Where She Went by Gayle Forman is about.

The book is the sequel to If I Stay, which I never read, but, if the flashbacks in WSW are any indication, is about two young, musically talented people who are crazy about each other, until one day the girl (Mia) and her family are in a terrible car accident. Her parents and younger brother are killed, and she is left in a coma. Adam, the boy, does everything he can to help her pull through, including finally promising to give her up if only she won’t die.

As you might predict, the words have no sooner left his lips than Mia starts to show signs of recovery. The first book (I assume) ends with her heading off to Julliard on scholarship for playing the cello, and Adam, an aspiring rock star, basically spirals into oblivion when she unexpectedly cuts him out of her life. If that doesn’t happen in the first book, well, it happens in between the two.


Adam’s band, Shooting Star (anyone else think that’s kind of a lame band name?), has become an out-of-control success, due largely to the popularity of the album he wrote while writhing in heartache. As his celebrity starts to outshine the rest of the band, tension is high and Adam is wondering if he wouldn’t be happier just giving the whole thing up. (It doesn’t help that he has never really gotten over Mia, who unceremoniously dumped him without actually dumping him and without explanation.)

The day before he’s supposed to leave for a European tour, he happens to notice that Mia (who he hasn’t seen or heard from in years) is playing at Carnegie Hall. He attends the show, and she has him called backstage, where for the next 24 hours they act awkward until they finally get around to drudging up the past and asking the questions they never did before.

Ok, so we all get the picture right? They’re both pretty darn successful with music, she’s mad at him, he’s mad at her, and they’re both the worst communicators you will ever meet.

Here is the first thing I think when I ask myself the question, “What did you think of this book?”

Oh. My. God. It. Is. So. Slow.

The actual story takes place in about a 24-hour period, but there is so much flash back, so much inner turmoil, so much stalling that you get about a decade’s worth of information. Which is not a problem, except that the story is so halting and painfully dragged out that you almost care less about the sad parts. Maybe I would have been more invested if I had read the first book (anyone out there who has care to share thoughts on that?), but most of the time I just wanted to tell them both to move on with their lives. If it was this difficult to just have an honest conversation, a relationship might not be the best choice.

Plus (and, again, this could be because I don’t have any history with these characters), I just didn’t really like either of them. Adam is bitter and more than a little whiny. Mia seems so vindicated by her “reasons” for abandoning Adam after he was so dedicated to her, but all of her supposedly noble excuses fell flat and were, it has to be said, just cruel and selfish.

The biggest issue I had, though, is that nothing really happens. Throughout the entire story. I didn’t have any big chunks of time to read the whole thing (though it’s pretty light reading, so if you do, you could probably knock it out in a few hours), and every time I would pick it up again and remind myself where I had left off, I would think, “Oh right, I’m at that part where…nothing has really happened yet.”

Not a good feeling when you’re supposed to (I assume) be super emotionally invested in whether or not these two crazy kids work it out.

And this isn’t an issue of me being above young adult literature. I love YA lit. I took an entire class on it in college. I can totally get behind books written for teens. I just don’t think it was that great of a story. Maybe this is one of those cases where the author had a great idea for a book, and then her publisher wanted to know if she could manage to crank out a sequel. (AKA, the worst story-writing plan ever.)

Have you read this book? (Or the first one?) Am I totally off-base with my judgements of these characters? Am I just missing something?

Want to get in on the discussion? Join us at the BlogHer Book Club.