Where She Went by Gayle Forman
This book is the sequel to If I Stay, and I was just as unimpressed with this book as I was with that one. The narrator is Adam, who was the boyfriend of Mia, the girl who was in the coma in the first book. He’s become a rock star, but he and Mia broke up, so he’s really angsty. Most of the book is a kind of mystery about why Mia dumped him, and Adam’s grumpy complaints about his heartbreak and his pitiful rockstar lifestlye. After all that, the explanation isn’t very satisfying, or at least not good enough for so much buildup. The gimmick of the first book, Mia’s floating consciousness during her coma, has to pull too much narrative weight in this explanation.
I picked up the book because I was interested in what a mediocre YA romance would say is the solution to a long distance relationship, and I was unsatisfied with the answer. Mia and Adam break up during their first bout of long distance for reasons that she doesn’t deign to communicate to him at the time. Of course a teenage long distance relationship can’t survive poor communication, much less a freeze out. Duh. Spoiler alert: when Mia and Adam get back together, they don’t even consider touring separately, not even just for a few months. Adam basically decides to give up his insanely successful band to be with her. There’s a lot of stuff about how he doesn’t enjoy music anymore, but then it seems like he gets back into it. This sacrifice seemed so unnecessary. I think it would have been more romantic for a disillusioned rocker to get his groove back after reuniting with a girlfriend, instead of jettisoning his career. After their current tours are over, they could have arranged their future separate concert tours to always play the same cities, or take turns touring and piggybacking, even if they don’t necessarily play music together, which might have been a cloyingly sweet ending.
Another small pet peeve. YA writers sometimes write about teenagers whose lives are much too adult to be believable to me. In this case, before the accident, Mia and Adam had frequent sleepovers and an overnight camping trip while they were in high school. Mia’s parents, it is explained, are super progressive. Maybe I just grew up in a different time (late 90’s-early 2000’s) or my parents were unusually conservative (and Catholic) but this just does not compute for me. It seems to me that writers have a choice either to write teenage characters or to write characters who are leading adult lives, and they can’t have it both ways. They want the characters to be young (close to the age of their readers), but they also want their relationships to have the intimacy and logistical ease of adult relationships. These books are wish fulfillment fantasies, of course, and it makes sense that the teen readers would like to have such permissive parents as well, but I think the books lose something in realism by eliminating all parental oversight. Note: I’m not prudishly saying teenage characters can’t have sex, I’m realistically saying that it can’t be that easy for them to have sex.