After reading the novel Where She Went, several questions are raised in my mind. What is it that makes youth so in love with and so possessed by fame and celebrity? What made teenagers throw themselves in a cult-like manner at the feet of the Beatles? What makes them drool and fawn all over the side-swept part in Justin Bieber’s hair? And most importantly, what makes them desire this same attention and devotion, despite being constantly confronted with the dangers of being a celebrity? Being a teenager myself, I understand the importance of having attention from others and feel I should know the answers to these questions. Sadly, I do not.
Where She Went is told from the perspective of Adam, a sometimes-whiney musician who leads a highly-successful hard-driving rock band, bleeds nicotine, turns nouns into adjectives by adding a y to their ends, and dreams of a cello-playing and scar-wearing ex-girlfriend of his named Mia. It is the sequel to the novel If I Stay, but Ms. Forman eliminates any impending need to read the forerunner in the series by explaining the events of the previous novel by flipping back and forth between past and present. Mia, having been in a tragic car accident which killed her family, undergoes intensive rehabilitation before entering Julliard and leaving Adam behind at an airport security check. This slap-in-the-face causes Adam to break up his band and return to the crypt of his childhood home in a state of hibernation. After taking up cigarettes, working a weird schedule, and confronting the best friend of the goddess that he worships, he locks himself into his ghastly bedroom. There he writes songs, plays around on his guitar, and reaches Nirvana. He finally lets himself out of the room to bring the band back together and make a blindingly-good record, which in turn gives him the loyal fandom of every teenybopper and young adult in the known world. Before leaving on an international tour, he reunites with his tortured love for a night of fun throughout the quiet quadrants and secret sectors of New York City.
But these questions still persist. Why is it that teenagers, after reading the account of a nocturnal creature revved up and reined in by addictive substances, still seek celebrity? Everywhere Adam goes he is beaten and bruised by vampiric journalists, fans, and girlfriends, whose fangs drip ink and torture Adam’s flesh until he rewards their parasitism with that most precious and sacred relic of musical sainthood: an autograph. This causes him to alienate everyone he knows except for pharmaceutical companies. Throughout this novel and countless others, the dangers of substance abuse, cheaply-purchased sex, and celebrity obsession are waved at and sometimes thrown in our faces. Is this constant pain really what anyone wants? Or maybe what drives people to the satanic hell of fame and back is the promise of that one most necessary human desire: love. Did we as a race somehow make ourselves believe that standing alone and naked in front of ten thousand screaming followers brings true love and affection? I think this may be because we are rarely shown the truly grotesque side of fame, the gizzards and the heart of tabloid attention. While her prose is occasionally sluggish and slow, I admire Ms. Forman for showing that unhappy side of being a clichéd “rock star,” and the true love that can be found through normality. The happiest characters in Where She Went are not the famous ones, but the characters who lead simple and sometimes unattractive lives. But maybe we are meant to take away something deeper from this novel, that simplicity is what not just teenagers but all people should truly desire.
About the Book:
Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman