A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this angsty coming-of-age romance is the dramatic sequel to Gayle Forman's tearjerking New York Times bestseller If I Stay. Adam's anger can be volatile and disturbing at times, and he lashes out at several people in the book: He thinks about "smacking" a reporter and paparazzo, pushing someone he loves against a wall, and hurting his bandmate. There's lots of mature language and mature material (Adam admits on several occasions that he's been with "more girls than he can count" since his break-up). The messages (grieving the loss of your family but knowing they are always a part of you; learning to let go of your first love -- and embracing a second chance at romance) will also connect better with more sophisticated teen readers.
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What's the story?
In Gayle Forman's powerful novel If I Stay, Adam Wilde is an 18-year-old aspiring musician begging the book's protagonist -- his comatose girlfriend Mia Hall -- to stay alive after a car crash that killed the rest of her immediate family. WHERE SHE WENT picks up more than three years later and switches the perspective from Mia to Adam, now a wunderkind rock musician who seems to have it all -- a Grammy-winning band, millions of fans, and a girlfriend who's a Hollywood starlet. But Adam is still deeply disturbed by the fact that after seeing Mia through an intensely painful recovery, she flew to New York to attend Juilliard and broke up with him in a cruel act of abandonment. One fateful day, Adam is wandering around New York before an international concert tour and discovers Mia's playing at Carnegie Hall that very night. He can't help but buy a ticket, and afterward Mia and Adam spend a whirlwind night coming to terms with everything that's happened since she left him.
Is it any good?
Forman again expertly explores tough topics such as grief and letting go of love, this time using Adam's continued uncertainty and despair to create the dramatic tension in the novel. As in If I Stay, the author effectively intersperses the present with flashbacks that fill in the gaps of the three-and-a-half years since Mia's accident. It's satisfying to get Adam's perspective on the difficult months after Mia wakes up to discover she's entirely orphaned, and also hear him relate the earlier days of his relationship with Mia -- including how wonderful the Hall family was to Adam, who always felt part of the clan. His feelings are understandably raw throughout the book, and he expresses them well in the lyrics of fictional album Collateral Damage. Forman beautifully describes the heartache Adam faces when seeing Mia again, and how it feels having to be pleasant and overly formal with someone you want to either kiss or hurt.
The story's one-long-night-together format is somewhat reminiscent of the classic romantic film Before Sunrise, except instead of young strangers on a train who quickly fall in love, this book's focus is in on a young couple that never stopped being in love -- but also has no idea how to move past the damage they've endured.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about sequels. What is appealing about reading them? Why do you think authors want to write them -- or publishers want to print them? Are they ever as good as the original story? What are some other books you wish had sequels?
What do you think of the author's depiction of media? Is the rock journalist to blame for asking Adam personal questions, or was she just doing her job in a celebrity-obsessed culture?
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