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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Book Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went (If I Stay #2) by Gayle Forman
Genre: New Adult (Contemporary Romance)
Date Published: April 5, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

It's been three years since Mia walked out of Adam's life.

And three years he's spent wondering why.

When their paths cross again in New York City, Adam and Mia are brought back together for one life-changing night.

Adam finally has the opportunity to ask Mia the questions that have been haunting him. But will a few hours in this magical city be enough to lay their past to rest, for good - or can you really have a second chance at first love?

Where She Went is the second book in the If I Stay Series by Gayle Forman. This book is told from Adam's point of view. I thought it flowed a littler smoother and faster than the first book. Like the first book, it flashes back and forth between past and present. Also like the first book, I enjoyed the present perspective more than the past. I enjoyed Adam's song lyrics in the beginning of the chapters. It really let you know where his mind was. I thought after three years, Adam would have adapted a little more. I never expected him to forget Mia or fall out of love with her, I just expected him to live better.. I guess. But, with such a tragedy looming over their past and the further heartbreak that followed, I suppose it was just how he coped. It made me sad for him though. I enjoyed this book a touch more than the first one, but I can't really put a finger on why.

Where She Went fully wraps up Adam and Mia's story. I can't say too much without giving away spoilers, but I was satisfied with how it all turned out.

It’s early evening now and the aggressive heat has mellowed, and it’s like everyone senses that it’s safe to go out because they’re mobbing the place: spreading out picnics on the lawn, pushing jogging strollers up the paths, floating in canoes along the lily-padded lake.

Much as I like seeing all the people doing their thing, it all makes me feel exposed. I don’t get how other people in the public eye do it. Sometimes I see pictures of Brad Pitt with his gaggle of kids in Central Park, just playing on swings, and clearly he was followed by paparazzi but he still looks like he’s having a normal day with his family. Or maybe not. Pictures can be pretty deceptive.

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 and I’m without Bryn. When Bryn and I are together, it’s almost impossible to fly under the radar. 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 wander toward the Ramble, where the only people I’m likely to bump into are the kind who don’t want to be found. I buy a couple of hot dogs and down them in a few bites, and it’s only then that I realize I haven’t eaten all day, which makes me think about lunch—and the Vanessa LeGrande debacle.

What happened back there? I mean, you’ve been known to get testy with reporters, but that was just an amateur-hour move, I tell myself.

I’m just tired, I justify. Overtaxed. I think of the tour and it’s like the mossy ground next to me opens up and starts whirring.

Sixty-seven nights. I try to rationalize it. Sixty-seven nights is nothing. I try to divide up the number, to fractionalize it, to do something to make it smaller, but nothing divides evenly into sixty-seven. So I break it up. Fourteen countries, thirty-nine cities, a few hundred hours on a tour bus. But the math just makes the whirring go faster and I start to feel dizzy. I grab hold of the tree trunk and run my hand against the bark, which reminds me of Oregon and makes the earth at least close up for the time being.

I can’t help but think about how, when I was younger, I’d read about the legions of artists who imploded—Morrison, Joplin, Cobain, Hendrix. They disgusted me. They got what they wanted and then what did they do? Drugged themselves to oblivion. Or shot their heads off. What a bunch of assholes.

Well, take a look at yourself now. You’re no junkie but you’re not much better.

I would change if I could, but so far, ordering myself to shut up and enjoy the ride hasn’t had much of an impact. If the people around me knew how I feel, they’d laugh at me. No, that’s not true. Bryn wouldn’t laugh. She’d be baffled by my inability to bask in what I’ve worked so hard to accomplish.

But have I worked so hard? There’s this assumption among my family, Bryn, the rest of the band—well, at least there used to be among those guys—that I somehow deserve all this, that the acclaim and wealth is payback. I’ve never really bought that. Karma’s not like a bank. Make a deposit, take a withdrawal. But more and more, I am starting to suspect that all this is payback for something—only not the good kind.

I reach for a cigarette, but my pack’s empty. I stand up and dust off my jeans and make my way out of the park. The sun is starting to dip to the west, a bright blaring ball tilting toward the Hudson and leaving a collage of peach and purple streaks across the sky. It really is pretty and for a second I force myself to admire it.

I turn south on Seventh, stop at a deli, grab some smokes, and then head downtown. I’ll go back to the hotel, get some room service, maybe fall asleep early for once. Outside Carnegie Hall, taxis are pulling up, dropping off people for tonight’s performances. An old woman in pearls and heels teeters out of a taxi, her stooped-over companion in a tux holding onto her elbow. Watching them stumble off together, I feel something in my chest lurch. Look at the sunset, I tell myself. Look at something with beauty. But when I look back up at the sky, the streaks have darkened to the color of a bruise.

Prissy, temperamental asshole. That’s what the reporter was calling me. She was a piece of work, but on that particular point, she was speaking the truth.

My gaze returns to earth and when it does, it’s her eyes I see. Not the way I used to see them—around every corner, behind my own closed lids at the start of each day. Not in the way I used to imagine them in the eyes of every other girl I laid on top of. No, this time it really is her eyes. A photo of her, dressed in black, a cello leaning against one shoulder like a tired child. Her hair is up in one of those buns that seem to be a requisite for classical musicians. She used to wear it up like that for recitals and chamber music concerts, but with little pieces hanging down, to soften the severity of the look. There are no tendrils in this photo. I peer closer at the sign. YOUNG CONCERT SERIES PRESENTS MIA HALL.

A few months ago, Liz broke the unspoken embargo on all things Mia and mailed me a clip from the magazine All About Us. I thought you should see this, was scrawled on a sticky note. It was an article titled “Twenty Under 20,” featuring upcoming “wunderkinds.” There was a page on Mia, including a picture I could barely bring myself to glance at, and an article about her, that after a few rounds of deep breathing, I only managed to skim. The piece called her the “heir apparent to Yo-Yo Ma.” In spite of myself, I’d smiled at that. Mia used to say that people who had no idea about the cello always described cellists as the next Yo-Yo Ma because he was their single point of reference. “What about Jacqueline Du Pré?” she’d always asked, referring to her own idol, a talented and tempestuous cellist who’d been stricken with multiple sclerosis at the age of twenty-eight and died about fifteen years later.

The All About Us article called Mia’s playing “other-worldly” and then very graphically described the car accident that had killed her parents and little brother more than three years ago. That had surprised me. Mia hadn’t been one to talk about that, to fish for sympathy points. But when I’d managed to make myself skim the piece again, I’d realized that it was a write-around, quotes taken from old newspaper accounts, but nothing directly from Mia herself.

I’d held onto the clipping for a few days, occasionally taking it out to glance over it. Having the thing in my wallet felt a little bit like carrying around a vial of plutonium. And for sure if Bryn caught me with an article about Mia there’d be explosions of the nuclear variety. So after a few more days, I threw it away and forced myself to forget it.

Now, I try to summon the details, to recall if it said anything about Mia leaving Juilliard or playing recitals at Carnegie Hall.

I look up again. Her eyes are still there, still staring at me. And I just know with as much certainty as I know anything in this world that she’s playing tonight. I know even before I consult the date on the poster and see that the performance is for August thirteenth.

And before I know what I’m doing, before I can argue myself out of it, rationalize what a terrible idea this is, I’m walking toward the box office. I don’t want to see her, I tell myself. I won’t see her. I only want to hear her. The box office sign says that tonight is sold out. I could announce who I am or put in a call to my hotel’s concierge or Aldous and probably get a ticket, but instead I leave it to fate. I present myself as an anonymous, if underdressed, young man and ask if there are any seats left.

“In fact, we’re just releasing the rush tickets. I have a rear mezzanine, side. It’s not the ideal view, but it’s all that’s left,” the girl behind the glass window tells me.

“I’m not here for the view,” I reply.

“I always think that, too,” the girl says, laughing. “But people get particular about these kinds of things. That’ll be twenty-five dollars.”

I throw down my credit card and enter the cool, dim theater. I slide into my seat and close my eyes, remembering the last time I went to a cello concert somewhere this fancy. Five years ago, on our first date. Just as I did that night, I feel this mad rush of anticipation, even though I know that unlike that night, tonight I won’t kiss her. Or touch her. Or even see her up close.

Tonight, I’ll listen. And that’ll be enough.
Check out my review of If I Stay!

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a journalist who specialized in reporting on young people and social-justice issues. Which is a fancy way of saying I reported on all the ways that young people get treated like crap—and overcome! I started out working for Seventeen magazine, writing the kinds of articles that people (i.e. adults) never believe that Seventeen ran (on everything from child soldiers in Sierra Leone to migrant teen farm workers in the U.S.). Later on, I became a freelance journalist, writing for magazines like Details, Jane, Glamour, The Nation, Elle, Budget Travel, and Cosmopolitan.

In 2002, I went traveling for a year around the world with my husband, Nick. I spent time hanging out with some pretty interesting people, a third sex (we’d probably call them transvestites here) in Tonga, Tolkien-obsessed, role-playing punks in Kazakhstan (bonus points to those of you who can find Kazakhstan on a map), working class hip-hop stars in Tanzania. The result of that year was my first book, a travel memoir called You Can’t Get There From Here: A Year On the Fringes of a Shrinking World. You can read about my trip and see pictures of it here.

What do you do when you get back home after traveling the globe for a whole year? First, you get disproportionately excited by the little comforts in life: Not having to look at a map to get everywhere? Yay! Being able to drink coffee without getting dressed and schlepping to a café first? Bliss! Then, if you’re 32 years old and have been with your husband for evah, you have a kid. Which we did. Presto, Willa!

So, there I was. With a baby. And all of a sudden I couldn’t do the kind of gallivanty reporting I’d done before. Well, you know how they say in life when one door closes another opens? In my case, the door came clear off the frame. Because I discovered that I could take the most amazing journeys of my life without ever having to leave my desk. It was all in my head. In stories I could make up. And the people I wanted to take these fantastical journeys with, they all happened to be between the ages of 12 and 20. I don’t know why. These are just the people who beckon me. And I go where I’m told.

My first young-adult novel, Sisters in Sanity, was based on another one of those social justice articles I wrote when for Seventeen and you can click here to read the article. Sisters was published in 2007. My next book, If I Stay, was published in April of 2009 by Dutton. It is also being published in 30 countries around the world, which is surreal. The sequel/companion book to If I Stay, Where She Went, comes out in April 2011. I am currently working on a new YA novel, that is, when my kids (plural, after Willa we adopted Denbele from Ethiopia) allow me to. And after that book is finished, I’ll write another, and another….

Wow. This is crazy long. I suppose the short version of this bio could simply read: My name is Gayle Forman and I love to write young-adult novels. Because I do. So thank you for reading them. Because without you, it’d just be me. And the voices in my head.

Gayle Forman is an award-winning author and journalist whose articles have appeared in such publications as Jane, Seventeen, Glamour, Elle, and The New York Times Magazine, to name just a few. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter.

To learn more about Gayle Forman and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on GoodreadsFacebook, and Twitter.

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