At first I thought ‘Oh no, this is going to be terribly similar to If I Stay‘ and I was right…to a certain extent. There were the same basic plot points from If I Stay: Someone dies, main character questions whether they can carry on, musically gifted love interest. But this time there was an added road trip, because it’s not a contemporary romance if two people don’t spend an extended amount of time together in a car. However, I wasn’t completely right, because there were new original characters, and a deeper message embedded in all the drama, which made for an interesting read, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it more than Gayle Forman’s other works.
Where She Went by Gayle Forman, is the sequel to If I Stay – a book I really enjoyed. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Where She Went, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of Adam in the first book so to have a book from his perspective didn’t improve my rating. Originally I hadn’t planned on reading the sequel, because I enjoyed the ambiguities of If I Stay’s ending. Now, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed with the ending, but I didn’t think I needed a sequel to come to the same conclusions that I’d already…concluded.
Adam spends the majority of the book moaning about how much Mia hurt him – this book takes place about three years after the ending of the first book – by going to Julliard and living her dream. I was absolutely appalled by the time it took for Adam to recognize that he had told her he would let her go if she stayed. Because Adam was in an unhappy place in his life it didn’t make for very fun reading. The novel definitely picked up with the introduction of Mia, but even then it wasn’t until the very end that I felt what I’d read actually meant something to the characters.
Forman still effortlessly went back and forth in the timeline, and I enjoy how easy her writing is to read. There wasn’t as much music in Where She Went, but I didn’t feel like this made it any less identifiable as Adam and Mia’s story. In fact the lack of music references just showed how much these characters changed. One thing that I felt was lacking was a resolute message that change can sometimes be good. Also, I wasn’t particularly fond of how attached Adam was to Mia – a good relationship should be supportive, but not dependent, which is what Adam was.
I think regret is a strong word to describe how I feel about reading this book, because I don’t think it necessarily added or subtracted from how much I liked If I Stay. I will say that if you’re undecided on whether or not to pick up Where She Went, just think about where you would like Mia and Adam’s relationship progresses and assume you are correct. Overall, I gave Where She Went two stars, because I couldn’t connect with Adam’s PoV as much as I did Mia’s and it would be unfair to rate it the same as If I Stay.
I really need to take a break from reading sad books, because the number of books I have cried at has significantly increased in the past month. When you’re doing a lot of coursework and essay writing for school, short books are your friend, ergo I read If I Stay. I nabbed this book off of Sarah the last time I went to her house, and she said that she ‘enjoyed’ it. I can’t quite remember whether the word – if you could count it as such – ‘meh’ but that’s probably the noise I would use to describe If I Stay.
I enjoyed it, but it was also just a bit ‘well yeah, okay.’ It could have been shorter, because I felt the middle was slightly repetitive, but the emotions were well written and I did enjoy it. Any book that can make me cry I have to have enjoyed at some point, otherwise there would be no juxtaposition.
Mia was a likeable character, I guess you could say I felt like I knew her, however I’m not a very musical person which, although it didn’t detract from the story, I wasn’t always aware of the significance of the references. Thank you Gayle Forman for the ‘Behind the Music’ explanation-y bits at the back. I can say, that if you do enjoy music, or are a skilled musician yourself, then you will probably find it a lot easier to connect to Mia and the other characters. That isn’t to say that I couldn’t connect with the characters, because I really liked the parents. It thought they were wacky and fun, and their death – not a spoiler – was hard hitting, and really made me understand why the whole ‘if I stay’ argument was such a debated one.
Adam is the love interest, and I thought he was okay. I didn’t fall in love with him like I did Étienne St. Clair or Dimitri Belikov of Jace Wayland (my favourites in reverse order) but he seemed like a nice enough guy, and I thoroughly enjoyed his attempts to get into the ICU. Kim was the best friend and I enjoyed her character, and hers and Mia’s backstory, it was believable and fun. My favourite character? Gramps. Hands down it was the grandad, because almost everything he said to the comatose Mia made me cry. He was so sweet, and so understanding, and it was nice to see some grandparents in YA. They’re not often there, so it was very refreshing.
One thing that slightly annoyed me about If I Stay was the structure. The significant information that isn’t relative to Mia’s medical condition is told entirely through flashbacks and backstories. I’m not the biggest fan of this format, unless it’s written by Morgan Matson. Gayle Forman handled it well, but by biggest problem was that I didn’t like them equally. I was happy when we were in the present, and I was happy when we were in the past. What I didn’t like was the chopping and changing, which led to ‘I don’t want to be in a seven-years-ago flashback! What’s happening to Mia’s brother now!’ or something along those lines. I felt like we were ripped away from present Mia, just so she could tell us an anecdote that I considered to be less important to her current situation. I already liked Adam, Kim and her family because of their reactions to Mia’s being in hospital, and in the beginning I liked the novelty of being through into the life of a family of which I had no context.
Overall, I gave If I Stay three out of five stars, because I enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it.
Just One Day by Gayle Forman was a light and easy read. Although I couldn’t quite get my head around the idea of someone just going to Paris with a stranger, I let that slide considering how enjoyable this was. The writing style pulled me in and I was fully immersed in Allyson’s story.
My favourite part was the second section: One Year. I wasn’t all that fussed about her One Day, but the year she had after I thought was wonderful. The character development was palpable, and if there is one thing I love, it’s character development. Allyson went from someone who couldn’t stick up for herself and always had to be in the shadow of someone else – her mother, her best friend – to someone who could make their own choices and adventures. I know this was a result of her One Day with Willem, so I guess by extension I also liked her One Day.
My favourite character you ask? Dee.
Why? Because he was exactly what I wasn’t expecting and exactly what Allyson needed. Plus, he had a good sense of humor.
The way that the Forman tackled the ‘oppressive Mom’ was extremely accurate. I felt that Allyson’s relationship with her parents was beyond relatable, and was partly the reason why I kept reading. I wanted to see how our protagonist dealt with it and if we would get the oh-so classic:
“But you’re giving up on your dream!”
“Not my dream, Mom. Yours.”
Wonderful, I never get tired of those speeches.
I loved the minor characters that were introduced, particularly Wren. Although you didn’t know them for long, you felt like they had been with you for the whole book – and I think that was the point. This novel was extremely poignant, because everything linked back to the beginning. And when that happens you realize how wonderfully crafted the whole story is and you just get lost in narrative. The very first page questions Shakespeare’s ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ and I have to say I forgot that that point was made until everything circled right back to it at the end. I think that’s the true teller of a good book, if it can knock you off your feet because of its profound…ness.
Not being a big fan of travel, I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like the travel element to the book. Travel by yourself just seems like such an overwhelming experience, but all the characters seemed to make light of it and make it sound like a fun and worthwhile experience. I loved the change between Allyson’s first and second trip to Paris because she had come so far in the space of a year. Tracking Willem down was also enjoyable to read, because you felt the pang of pity when Allyson hit a dead end, but apparently life if full of coincidences and the majority of them can be found in Paris, France.
Overall I gave Just One Day four stars, because I did love the narrative, and the characters and development. There is just so much more I want to write about, but I wouldn’t want to spoil the story, because, just like Allyson, sometimes you have to take an adventure of your own.