Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Review of Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Wow.  Just, wow. It's hard to decide exactly what I should say about this book.  Let me start by noting, Gayle Forman is a professional writer.

"Of course she is," you say, "She's a New York Times bestselling author."

That's not what I meant tho.  No, Gayle, like my Pulitzer Prize winning Uncle Joey (I'm not name dropping here, this reference will make more since in a sec), was a journalist before publishing the two bestsellers that are If I Stay and Where She Went (Hear that Uncle Joey? BESTSELLERS!), and it shows, not only in the way she turns a phrase, but in her ability to trim the fat. Like its predecessor, Where She Went is not a thick book (the hardcover addition is a mere 208 pages) and it does not need to be (the irony being that I didn't WANT it to end).  How Gayle is able to craft such intricate characters, convey such heart wrenching emotion, and tell such a gripping tale with so few words is beyond me.  The simple fact is, she does it.

I read a creative writing piece, by my Uncle Joey, several years ago.  In fact, it's been so long that I don't really remember the story. I remember something about a drug dealer and a fire in a condo but little else, EXCEPT how impressed I was by his ability to convey emotion and atmosphere with so few words.  I have to wonder if this ability is a learned skill or something inate in really good writers (Yeah, I think yer a really good writer, Uncle Joey, so does everyone else who's ever read anything you've written... now write a novel already!). Obviously, I can't do it as I've now written this much without really saying anything about the book, so I suppose I should stop dallying and get to it.

Where She Went is complete in and of itself, you do not have to read If I Stay in order to read and understand it (although I recommend that you do). Moreover, you could probably read it without even knowing a book came before it.  In this way it is more a companion piece than a sequel.  While I believe Where She Went would not have the SAME emotional impact if you haven't read If I Stay, Gayle does not lean on the foregoing material, so I doubt that you would experience a feeling that you have somehow missed something.  That's something you'll rarely hear me say about books in a series.  One of my pet peaves is reading books out of order (grrrr publisher's need to be more clear about where a book falls in a series).

Told from Adam Wild's point of view, Where She Went tells the story of how Adam dealt with the tragic events of If I Stay. I'm being deliberately vague here, and I'll say no more about the story because I don't want to spoil anything in either book for you.  I will caution you that if you look at the Amazon reviews of these books (particularly this one) before reading them, you are likely to get more information than you bargain for.

This book is blessed with (or suffers from, depending on your taste) the same narrative style present in If I Stay.  It heavily uses flashbacks to provide the intricate details of the characters' lives.  Most complaints that I have read about this book involve the narrative style.  Some people feel flashbacks kill the momentum of the story.  While I personally disagree, I do understand where they are coming from.

I really wish these two books had been selected by our book club for discussion, because I have A LOT to say about both of them.  The material is deep, character choices are tough, and the writing mechanics are fascinating. So if anyone out there reads this and wants to discuss please hit me up.  You can use the comments below, but if you do please be conscious of spoilers.  Better would be to email me. One of my future projects for this blog is to setup a discussion board for books like this.

In closing I'd just like to say thanks to Gayle for these gems.  I read a lot and I generally like whatever I read, but some books really get in my head.  I don't think I've been this swept up by a writer since Orson Scott Card's, Ender's Game.



  1. just finished this book. it is so great. this book is prolly one of my favorites. i loved everything about it. i even enjoyed the writing style. i like that it helps you get to know Mia in a way that would have been hard to achieve otherwise

  2. So glad you enjoyed it! A small caution, tho. Because we also chatted on face book, I know that you actually finished "If I Stay" rather than "Where She Went". The irony is that your comment would been appropriate for "Where She Went" as well despite, or more accurately, because of the fact that it is told from Adams POV. We definitely should chat about it when you finish "Where She Went". These two books are going into my permanent audio collection and will be revisited at some point in the future!

  3. lol i didnt even realize that i put it under the wrong book. oh well you saw it regardless and that was the point of the post. when i finish Where She Went i will post the comment under If I Stay lol