February 2, 2015 by Bernadette ~ The Bumbling Bookworm
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Publisher/Year: Simon & Schuster AU, 29 January 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Format: Paperback, ARC
Source: Courtesy of the Publisher
Rating: 4.5 stars!
Other books from author: If I Stay series & Just One Day series
I received a copy of this book from the publisher thanks to the Aussie YA Bloggers & Readers group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.
What I Thought…
Oh gosh, I was a bit nervous to read this one. For starters, the last book I read featured teen suicide (All the Bright Places) and it was a 5 star read for me. I was a bit worried that they’d be too similar or that my massive book hangover would cloud my judgment… Well, my worrying was all for nothing, as per usual! The only thing the two books have in common is the teen suicide and the amazing writing/storytelling. Also, no book hangover could detract from the awesomeness that is Gayle Forman.
I Was Here is the third book of Gayle Forman’s that I’ve read now, and I just keep on loving her writing more and more each time I pick up another of her books. I Was Here is told from Cody’s perspective, following the seemingly unexpected suicide of her friend Meg. Cody is determined to find out if Meg’s suicide was just that or something more sinister. This caused her to look deep within and make some important discoveries about herself and the people closest to her that she thought she knew.
I’ve got to tell you, I was a little bit shocked by the direction of this book in dealing with Meg’s suicide. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it, but I was really surprised that such things even exist. I see some pretty awful things in my day job, so it takes a lot to shock me – Forman managed to achieve this in I Was Here. Maybe that’s a sign of my own sheltered upbringing and stable mental health, but I was completely horrified. I always judge a book on whether it makes me feel emotional in some way, and I Was Here certainly did that. This book elicited a gamut of emotions from me; sadness, shock, grief, horror, nervousness, happiness, peace, fear, the list goes on. I also felt for Cody, and how she became so swept up in finding what happened to Meg that she too started to feel herself fall down the same path.
This is not a light book, but it certainly had light moments throughout. The two cats, Pete and Repeat, were super cute – they kind of reminded me of Gog and Magog from Anne of Green Gables, except they weren’t statues 🙂 Ben McAllister may have been a huge jerk when we first met him, but his relationship with Cody blossomed in a completely unexpected way. Whilst it horrified me at times, I Was Here also restored my faith in humanity. Despite hardly knowing Meg and not knowing Cody at all, Meg’s college roommates came together to help Cody and to be there for her in a way that the people closest to her didn’t.
My only criticism would be that while this book deals with teen suicide and self-harm, it skimmed over the main cause of these issues, being ill mental health. It was not discussed in great detail and it was brushed over a little too quickly for my liking towards the end of the book, when Cody was talking to Meg’s parents about her discoveries. Also, while Cody may be naive or a little obtuse, I could see the mental health issues with Meg and her mum coming from a mile away. When this was finally discussed, I was not surprised. Of course, this is just me being a little bit nit-picky; any book that opens a productive discussion on teen suicide, self-harm and mental health is one that should be read by everyone.
I don’t know how she does it, but Gayle Forman has managed once again to write characters and a book that moved me and tugged at my heartstrings. Now that I’ve finished I Was Here, there’s really no excuse for me not to read the Just One Day series… Especially when it’s sitting on my bookshelf! For those of you that haven’t read I Was Here or any of Gayle’s books, do it pronto 🙂
What did you think of this book? Did you enjoy it?