BOOK REVIEW – Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle FormanWhere She Went (If I Stay #2)
by Gayle Forman
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Synopsis:

It's been three years since the devastating accident . . . three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life forever.

Now living on opposite coasts, Mia is Juilliard's rising star and Adam is LA tabloid fodder, thanks to his new rock star status and celebrity girlfriend. When Adam gets stuck in New York by himself, chance brings the couple together again, for one last night. As they explore the city that has become Mia's home, Adam and Mia revisit the past and open their hearts to the future - and each other.

Told from Adam's point of view in the spare, lyrical prose that defined If I Stay, Where She Went explores the devastation of grief, the promise of new hope, and the flame of rekindled romance.

Review:

Spoilers if you haven’t read IF I STAY.

First you inspect me
Then you dissect me
Then you reject me
I wait for the day
That you’ll resurrect me

This was such a beautiful story about healing and second chances. I couldn’t get enough of it. Everything about it, the way it’s written, the song lyrics, the characters and their pain that comes alive through the pages, it was perfectly done. I feel like my heart got broken into pieces and then slowly, but surely put back together.

I’m so tired of feeling bad for making her live and feeling angry at her for living without me and feeling like a hypocrite for the whole mess.

Adam’s pain was probably the realest, the most tangible thing for me in this story. I felt his pain and anger, like I was the one left behind, the one who had to struggle with it everyday. And the rockstar life! Though of course, I’ve never been in this situation myself, I could really relate to Adam, to how this constant publicity, the constant spotlight on him ate at him every single day. I seriously wanted to hit that one reporter that wouldn’t leave him alone, wouldn’t stop asking him private question that she knew where off-limits. Gayle Forman showed perfectly how celebrities are only human and how many people forget that while they’re all trying to get a piece of them.

It sucks because I like the fans when I meet them individually, I do. But get a group together and this swarm instinct takes over and they seem to forget that you’re a mere mortal: flesh and bone, bruisable and scareable.

It becomes clear from page one that the rockstar life has taken its toll on Adam. It broke my heart to see his paranoia, his fear of crowds, his general anxiety and insecurity towards a lot of things that would seem harmless to me.

“Thinking about all this and passing happy people enjoying a summer evening, I start to feel like a moving target, even though I have my cap pulled low and my shades are on. […] I’m seized with this paranoia, not even so much that I’ll get photographed or hounded by a mob of autograph seekers – though I really don’t want to deal with that right now – but that I’ll be mocked as the only person in the entire park who’s alone, even though this obviously isn’t the case. But still, I feel like any second people will start pointing, making fun of me. So, this is how it’s become? This is what I’ve become? A walking contradiction? I’m surrounded by people and feel alone. I claim to crave a bit of normalcy but now that I have some, it’s like I don’t know what to do with it, don’t know how to be a normal person anymore.”

I feel like that’s such a powerful paragraph that emphasizes exactly what his stardom, his life as a rockstar, has done to him. And while struggling with all of this, he’s also dealing with a serious case of loneliness. He is not on good terms with his band and then of course, there’s the huge hole that Mia left when she shut him out of her life. And here’s the thing, even though it was cruel of her, the way she left him, it was her right. She had the right to choose this life, a life without him, especially since he told her she could, if she’d just stay. But although I understood her decision, I was so very angry at her at the same time and hated her a little for what she did to him. Adam was naturally struggling with the same exact thing. It was heartbreaking to watch.

It was selfish what I asked her to do, even if it wound up being the most unselfish thing I’ve ever done.

I love the way Gayle Forman alternated between telling about Adam and Mia meeting after three years and what Adam’s life has been like in those three years without Mia. Just like in If I Stay the story is so smoothly written that every one of Adam’s flashbacks got the reader to understand him better and had an important link to what he was going through in that very moment with Mia at the same time. It also made sure that I never once lost interest and I kept wanting more of their story. And of course, at least for me, the whole music aspect and Adam’s lyrics were the icing on this cake. The way they connect through the music, fell in love because of it, and both used it to heal in their time apart is so beautiful. Especially Adam’s pain and anger and helplessness really comes through by the means of his lyrics.

Hate me. Devastate me. Annihilate me. Re-create me.

All in all, this is a very insightful read that allowed me not only to understand how Adam’s mind works, but also feel every single one of his emotions along the way. While If I Stay is mostly about Mia’s journey, Mia’s decision, this is all Adam. And I loved it.

That’s the thing you never expect about grieving, what a competition it is. Because no matter how important they’d been to me, no matter how sorry people told me they were, Denny and Kat and Teddy weren’t my family, and suddenly that distinction mattered.

 

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