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Where She Went Paperback – April 17, 2012
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Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2011: In the three years since the tragic accident Mia barely survived in If I Stay, she and high school ex-boyfriend Adam have lived separate lives on opposite coasts. But then Adam, now the dissatisfied front man of popular LA-based band Collateral Damage, stops over in New York City for one night before kicking off the European leg of his tour. It happens to be the same evening that Mia, now well on her way to becoming a renowned cellist, is performing at Carnegie Hall. Adam buys a ticket, planning to slip in and out, but Mia spots him and for the first time in years they’re face-to-face with each other and their shared past. Over the course of one evening, as Adam and Mia traverse the city’s streets, they relive the four days Mia spent in the intensive care unit as well as her departure to Juilliard and from the life she knew. Emotionally raw and incredibly moving, Gayle Forman again showcases her considerable talent for drawing complex characters who face impossible decisions and then bear the consequences. Equally as compelling as If I Stay, Where She Went is powerful, heartbreaking, and everything fans of Mia, Adam, and Forman could hope for. --Jessica Schein
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.
"[A] gorgeous portrayal of rejection and rekindled love." - USA Today "Forman follows up her bestselling "If I Stay" with a story that is equally if not more powerful . . . " - Publishers Weekly, starred review
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Where She Went is told from Adam's point of view, and we've fast forwarded three years past Mia's devastating accident. Adam's now a bona fide rock star but he's miserable because only months after Mia left for Juilliard, she inexplicably stopped responding to his emails and texts. It was obvious that she no longer wanted to be with him, and he began a spiral down into depression that only the music kickstarted him out of. But things still aren't good for Adam; he can't get past Mia just dropping him, even though he's been with other girls and even has a serious live-in. Then he finds himself in NYC and he passes a poster for Mia's cello concert, and thinks...he has to go. Even if he doesn't talk to her, he has to go. And of course they meet up and explanations are attempted. Throughout the story, we move back and forth through the three years, seeing what Adam's been through. It's riveting to follow his traumatized losses and his disappointment as we begin to find out Where She Went.
This sequel definitely lives up to the storyline of If I Stay, even if I had a hard time with how Mia finally came to give her reasons. It's so well written, so emotional, that I literally inhaled the book in a day. Forman makes the story make sense and she gives the characters so much life that it's easy to find yourself lost in the telling. Sometimes sequels let a reader down, but this one takes us on an unexpected ride that fulfills its promises. Loved it.
Adam Wilde and his band Shooting Stars have finally made the big time. They made a comeback by performing some new songs Adam had written after the accident in which Mia’s family was killed and Mia having left. Adam has Bryn for his girlfriend. A deep division with Adam and the band has developed and the media isn’t helping. When they ask for an interview or waylay Adam with questions, they are always about him and not the band. He always says it is the band not him; but they don’t listen. He is in New York and will leave for London and the start of a tour with the band. He ends up outside Carnegie Hall and there is a special performance with a newcomer cellist, Mia Hall. After not having seen her nor heard her play in such a long time, he goes into the hall and listens. Afterwards, she asks him to come backstage. What will happen now?
Mia Hall healed and went to Julliard where she finished in three years. She has not returned to Oregon since her parents’ and brother’s deaths. She is set to begin a tour of Korea, China, and Japan. She is ready for the next stage of her life to begin; but there is one detail that needs to be addressed- Adam!
What will happen now? Why did Mia leave in the first place? Why didn’t she break off with him in person rather than just disappear on him? Why is he so unhappy with his life? After seeing her and hearing her play, how can he leave her again?
I really loved it. There were so many different little threads visited in one little book. I LOVED the way it was laid out. I LOVED the straightforward writing style that was still quite beautiful in places. I LOVED so many of the characters, and how different and unique they all were...sometimes when there's so many characters, the secondaries are more generic. But I really felt like I knew her Dad, Mom, Teddy, Kim, Adam, Willow, Henry, her Grandparents, heck even some of the nurses. I really appreciated that since I'm HUGE on good characters.
The novel captured me right from the start with her bantering with her family...it reminded me of the family in Easy A, and I LOVED that. Their love for each other was so easy to feel, even if Mia had issues with feeling like she fit in.
Anyways, I'm sure I have more to say, but I've forgotten it all now. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I laughed, I bawled, I was captured from start to finish. And I'm even more confused on what the movie is going to be like...must make my husband watch it with me.
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