Book Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Book Review: I Was Here by Gayle FormanI Was Here by Gayle Forman
on January 27th 2015
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-stars
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, and some secrets of his own. 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.

Cody thought she knew Meg better than anyone. They were closer than friends – they were practically sisters. But when Meg is found dead along with a suicide note, there seems to be a lot about her best friend Cody didn’t know. After a trip to Meg’s college to pack up her belongings Cody starts to learn just what sort of life Meg led. Wracked with guilt and a niggling suspicion that there was more to Meg’s death than everyone believes, Cody starts a journey to find the truth which may bring closure – but at what cost?

Gayle Forman is a master at writing beautifully heartbreaking books concerning sensitive issues. I Was Here explores some fairly dark emotions, teen suicide and grief with Forman handling them in a delicate and thoughtful way. Starting after Meg was already gone, Cody is looking for answers. She’s grieving and feels responsible for Meg’s decision to end her life. This book had the potential to be quite dark but somehow Forman managed keep this book from becoming depressing. Cody’s struggle for closure is realistic and felt emotionally authentic.

Meg died before the novel begins but her shadow is present throughout Cody’s story. Not getting to experience Meg and Cody’s friendship from before meant it was hard to properly understand Meg and how she would have felt about everything. But I did feel Cody’s pain at having lost her best friend and surrogate family.

Cody starts on a dark and dangerous journey attempting to find out just what led Meg down the path she chose. I was terrified for Cody and I think that speaks for the strength of the writing. I felt a sense of dread both for Cody but also because it is so easy to imagine Cody’s story happening every day to real people.

There is a romantic aspect of this book with Cody connecting with Meg’s former flame, Ben McAllister – a bad boy rock star who felt slightly reminiscent of some of Forman’s other leading lads. I wanted to love Cody/Ben but I found them to be slightly unbelievable and not just because of their rocky beginnings. Cody didn’t feel like the type of girl to take up with her best friend’s ex – and there was a sense that Cody was using Ben as a way to distract herself from her own guilt, grief, etc. I wanted more from them in terms of emotion whilst at the same time I wondered if the romance added or detracted from this book as whole.

I Was Here is a beautifully written story dealing with grief and teen suicide. It’s emotional with the author handling the delicate topics with care, delivering a story I didn’t want to put down. This is a must read for fans of If I Stay and other Gayle Forman books –  and I strongly encourage readers to keep tissues handy whilst reading. It’s a bit of a tear jerker!

 

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia for the review copy. 

3 Comments

  1. Great review! Actually, I was surprised as to how much I liked this one. For some reason I didn’t love If I Stay / Where She Went as most people did, but I fell in love with this story from the first page. Though yeah, it was definitely hard to really understand Meg as she was dead before the story even began.
    Kara @ Diary of a Teen Writer recently posted…Sunday Weekly Wrap Up (44) & Stacking the Shelves (25) The Week In Which Kara Set Lots of Goals, and Embraces a New YearMy Profile

  2. Kateeee! Thank you for participating in Aus YA Bloggers’ campaign with S&S! I’m so glad to hear that you liked this overall despite the lack of chemistry between Cody and Ben. Forman is a great story teller, and her ability to squeeze all the tears out of me is just astounding. I’m about to pick this one up next, I hope I like it as much as you did! Beautiful review lovely xx
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