Right, so. One might think that I would crawl out the abyss that is medical school to tell you about the MOST AMAZING book I have ever read right?? Well… one would be wrong.
It’s not that I haven’t read some AMAZING books over the last few months (Usually in a fevered reading frenzy that begins sometime around 11pm and ends sometime around 4am..which maybe isn’t the best life decision). At some point I fully intend to finish one of the twelve blogs I have started about all these wonderful books… OR I might cave in a do a few mini reviews because some of these books… WOW…we really do need to chitty chat about them!! HOWEVER this is not a blog about those books… this is a blog about a book that felt pretty “eh” but turned into a bizarre bookish experience that I bet my fellow book nerds will relate to. Which is basically why I am busting out of my school coffin like a vampiress braving the light of blog day. Because sometimes you just need to share these weird quirky geek experiences with people who will understand.
A few disclaimers.
1. I did not read If I Stay
2. As you may have guessed due to the total lack of zombies, vampires, magic or spaceships and without even the slightest HINT of an impending apocylypse Where She Went is outside my preferred genre…
So, like I said, I did not read If I Stay (bad I know, but I’m cutting corners where I can lately) what happened was this: I was having one of those days where I was all alone and up to my eyeballs in studying (can’t recall what.. it all blends together) and I decided that what I really needed was to weep about something…that happens to everyone right??
Sooooo I rented If I Stay which did in fact cause a tear or two to escape my nasolacrimal duct. SUCESS !!
Well THEN of COURSE I needed to know what the hell happened next!!! Obviously the first thing I did was turn to the blogosphere in search of answers… turns out y’all are better people than me though because while there were plenty of really lovely blog posts about the books there was a decided lack of detailed spoilers.
*****FYI this might be a good time to mention that will NOT be a spoiler free chat!!******
So then, despite the fact that it was midnight and I was already hella exhausted and had a test monday I accidentally purchased and read (in one sitting). Where She Went.
And here’s where the weirdness starts.
Because on the whole I did not love this book. Not by a long shot. If I were the type of reader with a clear understanding of how the star system on Goodreads is supposed to work I think it would have been somewhere between 2-3 stars for me.
Now I am certain that some of this has to do with the fact that I only read the second book but I ran this by my sister (she tends to read all the contemporary stuff that I avoid) who DID read the first book and we both felt that as a whole the story was a little one dimensional and dare I say… a weeeee bit unrealistic??
Listen, I can appreciate the irony of the reader who loves all things SciFi/Fantasy/paranormal and what have you saying she thought a book was “unrealistic” buuuuttt… yeah… The “Adam is a bad-boy 21 year old rock star who soared to fame after writing a breakout album about his broken heart meets up with his now ALSO kinda famous ex-girlfriend who left him and they spend one magical night rediscovering each other’s soul’s” plot premiss was a little tough to swallow… just sayin.
Maybe that’s exactly why I don’t usually read contemporary ooey-gooey emotional romancy stuff… Because while I LOVE a bit (or a lot) of romance I like it shelled in fantasy with a dash of end-of-the-world so that the stakes are so insanely high that things like instalove and soul mates bordering on obsession seem sorta reasonable.
But all in all I generally accepted that Where She Went just wasn’t really my thing to begin with and set to speed reading in search of closure or what not.
So, I got to the ending, thought “Aww that was nice, I liked that.” and set the damn thing down to go to bed….
Ten minutes later I’m brushing teeth and hair and contemplating the new stress lines on my face when I find myself thinking “Hmmmmm lot’s of the bloggers..even the one’s who LOVED this book thought Adam was being a bit.. of a.. um…”whiny bitch”…Huh, I don’t think I felt that way…. I should probably skim the end again… just to see.”
So I did.
Then the next day… I read it again.
The day after that I just gave up and reread the whole thing again. Including the end.
Guys, this went on for a few days… which does NOT include the fact that I have been listening to CHICAGO by Sufjan Stevens (which is the song Adam listens to on the bridge when he’s finially coming to terms with the last three years of his existence) on repeat ALL WEEK (I also threw Casimir Pulaski Day in there because it fits).
Eventually I started to realize that this was a bit odd.. Sure, I re-read a lot and I have been known to get obsessive *coughLEGENDcough* but this, this was not my normal brand of weird. I mean it wasn’t the romance I was clinging to… I had just read the Outlander series and re-read These Broken Stars which are both way more up my ally with reasonably EPIC, top notch, swoony romances. Oh and then there’s the fact that despite all this oddness it hadn’t really changed my overall assessment of the book which was to say: I thought it was sweet but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to strangers on the street (really, I do that).
At some point I accepted that something was going on… Obviously the book had resonated with me ..But why? What was I searching for in all that re-reading?
What it boiled down to was Adam. More specifically it was the whole discussion that the author was having through the character of Adam about anxiety and the ownership of grief. Of course it didn’t hurt that Adam was having this fascinating internal dialogue in a perfectly awesome mix of self depreciating sarcasm and awkward arrogance. (I don’t know if y’all know this but I am a sucker for sarcasm). Anyway… back to the very deep philophisizing I’m trying to do here..
First of all: It’s probably an understatement to say I’m familiar with anxiety. All those slightly uncomfortable and maybe even pathetic scenes where Adam is practically in a relationship with his anxiety pills… I’ve been there. It’s not pretty or romantic and it DOES make you feel weak or even worse, out of control.
In fact the whole description of living in a low to high level state of anxiety was pretty accurate.. I’ve seen plenty of people fall down a hole like that. Hell I’ve clearly journeyed into the vortex once or twice myself.. and just like Adam most of us who find ourselves on that hamster wheel are hellishly aware of what’s going on. We know it would be easier for everyone if we could just take a few breaths, go for a run, gain some perspective and deal with our shit.. but we don’t. Or we can’t. And then we admonish ourselves for being ridiculous and the hole just gets deeper.
But I think even more interesting (to me at least) was that while a lot of Adam’s experience of anxiety was instantly recognizable and even familiar it was also inextricably tied up in his lingering grief. You see, the author doesn’t tackle the concept of grief from the classic perspective of the person who is keenly experiencing a great loss (that was obviously the first book) but rather the aftermath of those who are close to the loss, or even directly effected by it but still feel that it is not theirs to own… Which is tough and often goes undiscussed. In fact until this book I don’t think I personally have seen someone put words to that experience. But we’ve all been there yeah?
Lastly, there was the fact that we were in the mind of a character who is experiencing something that all of us who have ever stood at the bottom of a metaphorically insurmountable mountain and decided to start the climb fear… That we will reach the top, achieve our dreams, make everyone proud and it won’t be enough. Because the the truth that we carry in the quietest part of our soul is that it was never about the goal, that life is what happens along the way but you have to choose to notice it. Or even more terrifying that somewhere in the climb you will lose yourself to the mountain…I don’t know if Adam was quite there yet but the potent cocktail of depression, grief and a level of success he was not prepared to deal with made me think it wasn’t at all unrealistic to envision a character that was emotionally stuck in a black hole.
Which I suspect is why I was so content with the oh so beautifully gift wrapped ending of this story.. Because it wasn’t really a book about Adam and Mia forgiving each other and falling in love again. It was, for me at least, more than that. It was a story about a person beginning to come to terms with their darkness, accepting responsibility and moving forward.
And yes, I suppose the realist in me would have preferred it had been a bit more clear that it wasn’t the “Happily Ever After” with Mia that was going to fix him… But from a storytelling perspective this started out as Adam and Mia’s story and I really don’t think this part of it could have been told without them both. Sure, Mia and Adam could have gone their separate ways on that bridge and I think we would have still understood that Adam had found peace, but the story had to continue because well… it wasn’t finished. Perhaps just like Adam, some of us needed closure (I mean why the heck else do you think I bought and read the second half of a story that I hadn’t bothered with before!!).
Right well… there you have it. I am nuts (which you knew). And maybe also a little bit of a romantic who appreciates it when the thought storm ends with a neatly packaged happily ever after (don’t tell anyone though..it might ruin my image). Look, I don’t know if i’ve mentioned this before.. but I love, love, LOVE it when a book makes me think like this.. granted…I generally prefer it if I actually LOVED the book but hey, sometimes bookish life lessons come in odd packages yeah?
And yes…. I am STILL listening to Sufjan Stevens…. did you know he’s coming out with a new album??? Squeeeeeeeeee!!!!!
Now I know I’ve been gone for a bit… but I’m super curious here…and if you’re out there reading I’d love to chat because I can’t possible be the only one who has fallen down a book rabbit hole like this right???
So if this has happened to you I’d love to hear about it!! What was the book?? Was it a book you already loved or like me did you find something that spoke to you in an unexpected place??
P.S… I’ve missed y’all…