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Where She Went Hardcover – April 5, 2011
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Lauren Oliver is the author of Delirium and Before I Fall. A graduate of the University of Chicago and the MFA program at New York University, Lauren is a full-time writer and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Recently she sat down with Gayle Forman to discuss their work. Read the resulting interview below, or turn the tables to see what happened when Gayle interviewed Lauren.
From Lauren Oliver: I’ve had a writer’s crush on Gayle Forman ever since I read an early copy of If I Stay. It’s a shattering and ultimately life-affirming book, and I was completely transported by the lyricism of Gayle’s prose. Like the music it often references, her writing seems to float gracefully over and around its themes of life and choice and love—always love. We’ve been trying to grab coffee in our neighborhood for over a year (and have even run into each other on the street outside the local grocery store). Finally, on the eve of the publication of Where She Went (April 5, 2011), the gorgeous follow-up to If I Stay, we found time to grab lunch and gab.
Lauren: Had you always intended to write a sequel to If I Stay?
Gayle: No. I had no intention of writing a sequel, in fact. But in the way that characters sometimes behave, Adam and Mia had different ideas. I’d started on a totally different book, actually, but they kept banging on the drum in my head. And I felt I had left them in a difficult place. At the end of If I Stay, I knew they both they had a rough couple of years ahead of them.
Lauren: How hard was it to switch POV and enter Adam’s mind? To write from a boy’s perspective?
Gayle: It wasn’t very hard, actually. I knew the characters so well. I knew him so well. It was actually strange to know a character so well without actually having seen through his eyes. But in some ways, I could understand Adam even more than I could understand Mia when I started writing her. Mia was so different from me. One thing that was hard: Adam was so angry at Mia, and so I was angry at Mia, and that was disconcerting.
Lauren: Is there transference of emotions when you write? Do you feel you become your characters in some way?
Gayle: Totally. I let my sister read a draft of Where She Went and she said, “I forgive you for being such a brat.” Because I’d been totally channeling that anger. If I Stay actually was kind of a beautiful place to be, because Mia was surrounded by so much love. Where She Went was a lot harder, even though nobody dies.
Lauren: So Mia is quite different from you, then?
Gayle: Completely. When I first started writing her, and even though she inhabited me, I was like, where are you coming from? I feel like when I talk, I sound like a teenage valley girl. She seems so wise to me, like such an old soul. I certainly can see elements of me, but she definitely feels quite different and other. But I loved her and felt very protective of her and I knew her very well.
Lauren: How did you know that so much time would have to elapse between books?
Gayle: I just knew that it had to be several years later. The same that I knew that it couldn’t be from Mia’s perspective. If we were in Mia’s head again it would be another exploration of her grief. And it had to be several years later for Adam and Mia to be ready for change.
Lauren: What’s your writing process?
Gayle: My process is sort of similar to yours. I don’t start by writing the ending of the books, but I know what the ending will be. Although with If I Stay, I didn’t know what Mia’s choice would be, though I knew the book would end by her choosing.
I totally get ideas in the shower too! I’m a firm believer that the muse visits when you are working—sitting at the computer—but the moments when things have clicked have so often been in the shower. And then I’ll be sitting at my computer in a towel, and my apartment is freezing. We don’t have one of those hot New York apartments. I should really invest in a bathrobe.
Lauren: But you don’t outline?
Gayle: I do not outline. I love exploring the twists and turns to get me to that ending, the unexpected places.
Lauren: I really love what you said about the muse visiting when you are working. So you’re pretty much always working on a book?
Gayle: Yes. Momentum breeds momentum and inertia breeds inertia. Even if something’s not working, I’ll keep working, just to have something to work on, if that makes sense. And sometimes one failed project leads to another project that works. But you can’t get to 60 mph from a full stop. It never happens that something springs to life from nothing.
Lauren: Music is so important in both If I Stay and Where She Went. So it begs the question: do you listen to music when you write?
Gayle: When I wrote If I Stay, I listened to music the whole time…There was this one song, Falling Slowly, which I listened to every time I began writing. It was a Pavlovian thing. I’d listen to it, it would make me cry, and then I would start working. I wrote Where She Went in dead silence until about 3/4 of the way through. The switch coincided with a point at which Adam stops being estranged from music. He borrows an ipod and after that moment, I started listening to music again while I was writing.
Lauren: What are the themes that interest you as a writer?
Gayle: Love, I think, in all of its dimensions. The cost of unconditional love…what happens in the absence of love. Love is what we all live and breathe for.
Lauren: What was the proportion of fiction versus real life in If I Stay? What about Where She Went? I know that If I Stay was actually based off a real-life event.
Gayle: In If I Stay some of the characters were based on people I knew and the premise was based on a real-life event. Where She Went passed fully into the realm of fiction. There’s a certain transcendence in the aftermath of tragedy…you find something deeper in yourself. But eventually all that passes, and you have to simply get on with it. That was the germ of reality in Where She Went. The gritty reality of grieving and getting on with life.
Lauren: What’s the best and worst part about publishing a follow-up novel to a super successful book?
Gayle: I worry about letting people down, of course. But mostly, I put the pressure on myself. I want every book to be better than the one before.
Lauren: What about the best?
Gayle: I’m just so glad that we write YA because we have such a broad and vocal readership.
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Top Customer Reviews
How I Acquired the Book: Borrowed from my town's library.
The Review (with MINOR SPOILERS): I suppose I should start off this review by saying that Where She Went is very different from its predecessor, If I Stay. For the first half, Where She Went was very slow, dragged in the plot, and felt as if it were some new trashy teen lit. While I was reading the first half, I kept thinking, "Wow, If I Stay would be better if it had stayed alone." Where She Went certainly was not the book If I Stay was. In my opinion, although it didn't change mine, If I Stay had the potential to change people's lives. However, I can't say the same for Where She Went.
While I thought the ending of If I Stay was a very nice and sweet ending, obviously, some others did not, and that is, I suppose, what prompted Ms. Forman to write this book. Where She Went picks up three years after Mia's tragic car accident that killed her family, but not her. But this time, the story's told from Adam's point of view. In the three years that have passed, he has become a rock star. Mia, meanwhile, has reportedly become "the next Yo-Yo Ma."
That was one major complaint I had with Where She Went: the whole unrealisticness of it all. (Hey, is that even a word?) Seriously, how, after three years, are they both supposed to be ridiculously famous? The improbability of that really staggers me, and detracted a lot from my reading experience. Even Adam describes it perfectly on page 228: "It's just: Kim. You. Me. We all came from this nowhere town in Oregon, and look at us. All three of us have gone to, well, extremes. You gotta admit, it's kind of weird.Read more ›
Don't think that's the answer though. Super-emo Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls)'s Sam and Beautiful Creatures's Ethan didn't rock my boat and how could they with their obsessions over puffy coats, Scarlett O'Hara and leaky womb type poetry? Adam Wilde is emo of a different, Tom Mackee (The Piper's Son) kind. He is broken, messed up, hopeless, talented and he can love!
Adam's story was just so, so bitter. Throughout the book I felt that exactly like him, I was filled with pain and resentment towards Mia's decisions. The eventual release of all the pent-up anger (accompanied my uncontrollable sobs) was, I believe, as cathartic for me as it was for Adam. This book was a fantastic study of grief, loss and forgiveness. Beautifully, beautifully written.
Ladies, have you hankies ready for this one, 'cause I am tearing up again just thinking about it.
What I Liked: If I Stay was a great emotional and thought-provoking read. And because I was late jumping on the reading bandwagon (I didn't read that book until late last year), lucky for me I didn't have too long to wait for the answers that are found in Where She Went. If I Stay was first published in January of 2009, so some people have been waiting over 2 years for closure. Well wait no more, the time has finally come! Today is release day for Where She Went.
I really liked that this book was told from Adam's POV (1st person narrative). If I Stay was completely Mia's story; her traumatic experience, her story, her flashbacks. In Where She Went, we finally get Adam's side of the story; from back when Mia was in a coma from the accident until now, 3 years later. It was good to see where and how Adam and Mia each ended up 3 years after her tragic accident.
Adam pours his heart and emotions into his lyrics and shares them with the world. Every other chapter leads with a sampling of Adam's lyrics. Angst, torment and bitter emotions drip from his words.
One of my favorite lines (that accurately describes Mia's present journey) is Gran's theory on why Mia was afraid of butterflies when she was younger:
"She said it was because one day I was going to have to go through a metamorphosis like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly and that scared me, so butterflies scared me.Read more ›
How could you go on knowing they were out there somewhere living their life without you? A life that you thought you would always be a part of. Knowing their smile was no longer yours, that they were no longer yours.
How would you continue if they took a piece of your soul with them? What could you do to fill the void created by their absence?
Who would you blame for the promise you made?
Where She Went is the achingly beautiful and truly exceptional follow-up to If I Stay. Told from Adam Wilde's perspective readers are carried along through his emotional wasteland as he strives to cope with his new existence without Mia and struggles to understand what went wrong.
Author Gayle Forman has once again delivered an exceptionally written story filled with the raw and staggering emotions that accompany loss. Adam's confusion, emptiness and helplessness just seep off the page and attach themselves to the reader, making his pain their own.
The author once again shifts back and forth between past and present, as Adam recalls moments from his past and theirs, creating continuity between his story and Mia's. A story which is intertwined with hers, but whereas her suffering was filled with hopelessness, his is filled with a pain that is sharp, simmering just under the surface and ready to explode.
Where She Went is just as beautiful and sorrowful as its predecessor, but there is also a tenderness, yearning and hopefulness to Adam's story that is breathtaking and unexpected.
This book can be read without having read If I Stay as the author infuses just enough of Mia's story to make book readable on its own. However, readers will be missing out on something simply incredible if they do not read both books.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What I liked best about this book was how messy it was. Each character had realistic emotions and reactions to a difficult situtuation. Read morePublished 4 days ago by Mary Dashwood
I chose four stars because it was really good...I loved it had a bit of mystery.....I couldn't go finish itPublished 5 days ago by Rosetta Bulak
I loved if I stay. And this was great you got to see Adams side of how it affects him in the future and just a great ending.Published 5 days ago by Alexis
Absolutely loved this book, though a shade less than the first one. The plot was super-tight, just covering a running conversation that takes places over roughly 24 hours. Read morePublished 9 days ago by JamieGamer