Review: I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

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I Have Lost My Way is the latest book by the famed Gayle Forman and it definitely doesn’t disappoint! It features her typical “set in 1-day” timeline as well as packing an emotional punch full of angst, change and emotion. It’s the kind of book you chew through in one day but keep thinking about it for a long time after.

The book follows 3 narrators: Freya (a singer who’s lost her voice) and Harun (a closeted quiet boy who’s broken his boyfriend’s heart) and Nathaniel (neglected and disillusioned with the disappointing world after an accident). The book follows them as they all meet in New York City, actually…they meet because Freya tumbles off a foot-bridge and lands on Nathaniel’s head, gives him a concussion, and then ropes a nearby Haran into helping them to hospital. Harun recognises the famed-Freya-singer and wonders if hanging around with her will somehow get him his boyfriend (who loves her music) back. And Nathaniel feels all his paths in life have folded to a close…and then he meets these two strangers who help him and stick with him, even when they could’ve left.

I loved Forman’s previous books, If I Stay and Where She Went, so I was super excited for this new one. I Have Lost My Way tugged at those heart strings and also incorporated such a complex and interesting cast and plot into such a small amount of space!

I really liked how the “told over one day” plot was handled. It was short and powerful and I got so so attached to these characters after just seeing them over one day! However the romance in these 1-day stories always does feel a bit rushed…although I liked that Nathaniel and Freya weren’t spouting any “destiny” lines…they just liked each other and were keen to see where it would go. It was instalove but not cliche! And they were so cute!

It’s written so their backstory comes in 1st person chapters, but the bulk of the book (set in the present day) is written in 3rd. I liked this unique formatting and storytelling style and I think it worked well for the book. I thought Harun’s narrative didn’t slot so easily with the others, but he was still such a winning character and I was just as invested in his life.

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A quick glance at the characters?!

  • FREYA: She’s a rising-star singer who suddenly can’t sing. It could be medical?Or nerves? But she just stops being able to sing and she’s contracted by an austere man she can’t disappoint and she’s scared people will forget about her if she never sings again. Fame only lasts if you’re giving to your audience after all. She feels so lost with all of this and the pressure is crushing her.  She’s also biracial/Ethiopian and her culture plays into her music loves a lot.
  • HARUN: He’s very gay and very closeted being from a strict Muslim family that he loves dearly and doesn’t want to disappoint. A lot of his narrative is wrestling with what he knows to be good and true vs what he knows his parents would do if they found out. He has an amazing black boyfriend, James…but who doesn’t want to be Harun’s shameful secret anymore. Then Harun agrees to do something his family wants that is…not good for him. And things with him and James turn sideways really fast. When the book begins he’s just broken his boyfriend’s heart and is totally lost and alone.
  • NATHANIEL: He is the most mysterious of the bunch and grew up really secluded and neglected with a father who was very childish and never took proper care of him. As a kid, Nathaniel found that exciting…as an older teen? He feels overlooked, unwanted, and forgotten. He ends up in New York City after a tragic home event and he feels like his world is collapsing around him. He’s very depressed and finding Freya and Harun kick-starts him out of a downward spiral. He’s also so very soft and kind and also starving so they spend a lot of the book feeding him. As they should.

It’s definitely got the emotional edge I’ve come to expect from Forman books! I was super caught up in the story and just wanted to know if something (or anything!) would work out for these characters who were so lost and also stuck in their own mire of aloneness.

I Have Lost My Way is an amazing story that takes a lot of twists you won’t expect. It deals with grief and loneliness and isolation and how important it is to confide your struggles with people you love and trust.

Adele’s Best Of 2009: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I have had a continuous stream of tears running down my cheeks for the last few hours. Between Jenny Downham (Before I Die) and Gayle Foreman, I have cried a lifetime of tears this past week. My house mate asked ‘why do you put yourself through it?‘ I had to think about it, for a fraction of a second, before I answered ‘because every word is worth it’.

Simply, this book wouldn’t be the emotional cruncher it is without some superb writing from Forman. Without giving too much away, she makes all characters in this story extremely real. It starts off as many YA stories do, some froth and a lot of great dialogue between Mia and her family. Once that chapter is finished, the tone completely changes. Mia and her family are involved in an accident and Mia’s trapped in limbo, witnessing the lives of those who care for her, and those she cares for in return, without the power to do anything but watch.

Forman walks the line between Mia’s recollections and the present with ease. Too often a book similar in intent would be manipulative, but I didn’t feel this at all. I felt Forman’s love for each one of these people, as if they were her own. That Mia’s loss, was her loss. The empathy that courses through this book is both inspiring and astounding.

Despite the somewhat dark subject matter this is a story of hope, life affirmation and all that it brings. The relationship between Mia and Adam is honest, they might be in love but they have real problems and they aren’t all solved with a snap of their fingers. Kim is an amazing best friend, sarcastic and strong, her appearances in the book are bold and bursting with love. I particularly love an incident in the playground that was the inception of the girl’s friendship. Mia’s parents made a huge impression on me, they sounded familiar, as if I had met them but avoiding anything resembling a cliche. The hospital staff, particularly Nurse Ramirez with her biting wisdom and infinite care, also made an impression on me. How much did she really know? Mia’s grandparents melted my heart, I have always heard how outliving one’s child is the worst thing imaginable but these two transcend the situation with some honesty and hope. I was shocked by how quickly this story and girl sucked me in – as the tears would attest.

Music has a large role in this book but it’s never clunky or awkward. Mia is somewhat of a cello prodigy and her boyfriend, Adam fronts a band called the Shooting Star. Her father is a former punk and her mother was one of those feminist rock chicks, both parents still retain their rockinsensibilities. When reading the acknowledgements I wasn’t surprised to see that Forman had been listening to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s Falling Slowly‘ (from the movie Once) while writing this novel, you could feel the song’s influence throughout each page. I think that could be the best comparison for this novel, it is to the written word as ‘Falling Slowly’ is to your ears – emotive, heartwarming, stirring, powerful and memorable.

This novel is about love. Love for your family and the family you make for yourself. The strength to follow your passion, to love your parents unconditionally and they for you, to have belief in people, to embrace music and life. It is also about choice, when no two options are easy, what would you do?

I ask: how long will it take for you to get your hands on this book?

Adele Walsh, book blogger of Persnickety Snark fame and trusted reviewer, recently selected her best young-adult reads of 2009.