Saturday, June 11, 2011

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Adam and Mia were high school sweethearts, each with a big dream; he to be a rock star, and she to be a concert cellist. In her senior year of high school, Mia's family experiences a devastating tragedy that alters her life forever. Adam is there for her each and every day and helps her through the physical and emotional pain. However, when Mia achieves her dream of admission to Julliard and is able to leave to study in New York things change drastically. Inexplicably, she dumps Adam who, unable to understand what is happening, crashes emotionally.

Now three years later, Adam, a famous rocker who is part of the band Shooting Star, is on the verge of a breakdown. He takes pills to control his anxiety attacks, has the shakes and feels like he caught up in a vortex. The songs that made him famous came out of the emotional devastation of his break-up with Mia.

While on a brief lay-over in New York City before flying to London to begin a 67 night tour, Adam walks into Mia's concert at Carnegie Hall. It is an impulsive act for Adam who is struggling to cope with the stress of fame and who still can't forget Mia. As it turns out, his presence has not gone unnoticed and eventually he and Mia reconnect immediately after the concert when Mia has him brought to her dressing room.
My first impulse is not to grab her or kiss her or yell at her. I simply want to touch her cheek, still flushed from the night's performance. I want to cut through the space that separates us, measured in feet...I want to touch her to make sure it's really her, not one of those dreams I had so often after she left....
But I can't touch her. This is a privilege that's been revoked. Against my will, but still.

Mia, on the verge of stardom in the classical world, offers to show Adam around her favourite locations in New York City. Interspersed with a description of events of this one evening are Adam's introspective flashbacks on his life during the past three years.

Told in the voice of character Adam Wilde, the past reveals information about his relationship with Mia and his path to fame, while Mia finally reveals to Adam the real reasons for their break-up. It is this discussion that finally helps Adam come to some understanding of what happened but also helps Mia realize what she did to Adam. Having come to terms with their past, Adam and Mia see each other in a new way, a way which offers healing, and perhaps new possibilities.
Forman is able to eloquently capture both the pain and angst Adam has experienced and still is experiencing from his break-up with Mia. In Adam, Gayle Forman creates a sensitive,lovable character to whom the reader is most empathetic. We feel his pain and his sense of betrayal from his relationship with Mia. The author does an excellent job portraying how difficult it must be to retain one's identity in the face of sudden fame. Adam is basically a good guy who laments not only losing the love of his life, Mia, but also losing parts of himself as a result of living the life of a world famous rocker. He has a sense of shame that somehow he hasn't measured up, because he's given up and he's been hurting so much.

When I started reading this book (which was recommended to me by my daughters) I didn't realize it was the sequel to If I Stay. Where She Went can be read as a separate novel, which is what I did and it loses nothing in the process. I now plan to go back and read If I Stay. However, since If I Stay is told in Mia's voice, those who have read the first book will have a better understanding of this couple because the character of Mia is the focus of the first book.

I loved Where She Went. I wanted to see Adam through his pain and I wanted him to achieve some kind of resolution that would allow him to move on. I believe many readers will be able to identify with him, whether they be teens or adults, men or women. Gayle Forman has done a remarkable job of capturing how a relationship can be hijacked by life's events in an honest and heartrending way.

Book Details:
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
New York: Dutton Books 2011
260 pp.

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