A sequel to the tearjerker, If I Stay, Gayle Forman’s novel, Where She Went, was my first official e-book, checked out of my local library. I’m not a Luddite, but I just couldn’t bear giving Amazon more of my money than it already gets so I’ve resisted the Kindle in all its forms. However, since I will sell my soul to Apple, I just downloaded Overdrive onto my new IPad and checked out my first electronic book.
I wanted to like this sequel especially because one of the things from the first book that really moved me (and in the movie as well) was that when Mia made her choice, I felt overwhelmed with the emotional force of what next—the what next that I could only imagine because the book and movie end. Where She Went tackles the “what next” and does so in an interesting way—shifting the point of view from Mia to her boyfriend, Adam, and pushing the story several years into the future.
Adam and Mia’s relationship ends not long after Mia goes off to Julliard and Adam’s initial tailspin into depression (and back to his childhood bedroom) eventually turns into a flurry of bitter but amazing songwriting. He reconnects with his band, Shooting Star, and they jump from indie college-radio darling to global phenomenon in way too short a time. Most of this is told in flashback because as the story starts, Adam is a fully-fledged rock star, spending a few days in New York City before flying to London to start a tour. Though he seems to have it all—Grammy nominations, an actress girlfriend, etc.—Adam is barely holding it together. He’s anxious, overmedicated, and distanced from his band mates and his music. As is the way in stories like this, he happens to see a poster for a Young Concert Series featuring Mia and it’s that night; the concert is sold out but he gets a rush ticket at the last minute. This spur-of-the-moment decision brings him and Mia together for the first time in three years.
In theory, this should all work well and there are parts of this novel that I like a lot—the way the narrative moves back and forth between present and past, the way it revisits moments from the first book but from a different angle, and the way it handles how Adam initially deals with Mia’s absence. However, the first person narration here feels claustrophobic—in a way that wasn’t the case when we were in Mia’s head. Also, there’s something about the musical references that feel off to me. That is, Adam is supposed to be in his early 20’s but the music references skew older. If I as a middle-aged reader recognize every artist mentioned, then there’s something not quite right. These are not deal breakers here, but they kept me from fully engaging in this story like I did with the first.
It’s nice to know how things end up for Adam and Mia, but I didn’t finish this wondering “What next?”