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Monday, May 9, 2011

where she went, written by Gayle Forman. Dutton, Penguin. 2010. $19.50 ages 12 and up

"Whoever said that the past isn't dead had it backward. It's the future that's already dead, already played out. This whole night has been a mistake. It's not going to let me rewind. Or unmake the mistakes I've made. Or the promises I've made. Or have her back. Or have me back."

If you fell in love with Mia two years ago when If I Stay (Dutton, 2009) was published, you will have been longing to know the next part of her story. That heartbreaking book got the attention of many young adult readers and held them rapt as they waited and wondered if Mia would live or die. It introduced us to her family, her extended family and to Adam, who loved her fiercely and begged her not to let go, to stay and move forward with her music dream.

This sequel, narrated by Adam, explores his devastation following Mia's departure for Julliard. Much has happened in the three intervening years. Mia walked away to pursue her cello studies, and Adam went on to achieve rock star status with his band, Shooting Star. He is now relentlessly pursued by fans, reporters, and groupies. He travels apart from his bandmates and has little in common with them anymore. So, while he stays in New York because of superstition and angst, the band travels to Europe without him. Adam will join them a day late to do promotion and get ready for their new tour.

Alone and looking for something to do, he notices a poster for Mia's upcoming concert at Carnegie Hall. He  decides to go. After the concert, a messenger is sent asking him to meet Mia backstage:

"I want to touch her to make sure it's really her, not one of those dreams I had so often after she left when I'd see her as clear as day, be ready to kiss her or take her to me only to wake up with Mia just beyond my reach."

A chance encounter, a tour of Mia's favorite haunts in New York, and an attempt to come to terms with everything that has happened since their parting makes for some very compelling storytelling. Adam's story is told in alternating chapters between the past and the present, what has happened and what is happening now. His lyrics from the band's double platinum album begin the chapters dedicated to present time and they give a poignant look as what life without Mia has been for him. She tells him about her three years, and the moves she has made toward healing, Both are feeling anger and pain, neither is willing to just walk away. Fate has intercepted in the trajectories of their lives, and is giving them a chance to clear up some of the hurt of the past. Will they be able to find common ground? Is the strength of their love enough?

"And that's also when I made her the promise. The promise she's held me to.
I did the right thing. I know it now. I must've always known, but it's been so hard to see through all my anger. And it's okay if she's angry. It's even okay if she hates me. It was selfish what I asked her to do, even if it wound up being the most unselfish thing I've ever done. The most unselfish thing I'll have to keep doing.
But I'd do it again. I know that now. I'd make that promise a thousand times over and lose her a thousand times over to have heard her play last night or to see her in the morning sunlight. Or even without that. Just to know that she's somewhere out there. Alive."
Well done, Gayle Forman!

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