Title: I Was Here
Author: Gayle Forman
Format/Length: Paperback proof/270 pages
Publisher/Date Published: Feburary 1 2015/Simon & Schuster
Category/Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary
Source: Sent from the publisher for review — Thank you! :)
Description: 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.
4/5 stars –
I was wholly, completely, and utterly drawn in by I Was Here by Gayle Forman from the first page. From her refined, evocative prose, to her loveable but flawed characters, I must say this is my favourite novel of hers yet. Previously, I’ve read and enjoyed her other books – but this one in particular showed off her talent in prose and characters, as well as crafting a storyline both strangely hope-inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. It’s not often I come across a book like that.
I Was Here follows the story of Cody, who after receiving an email of her best friend’s suicide, realises she didn’t know Meg as well as she thought she did. The novel explores her relationship with Meg and the people around her, all while piecing together the reasons Meg killed herself.
Self-harm and suicide is a tough subject to conquer – in the young adult book industry, particularly – because there’s a fine line between handling the novel in a raw, honest manner, and glossing over the tougher details to not lose readers who might be offended or put off by the storyline. Gayle Forman has done a good job in balancing this line: it deals with teen suicide in a way that enlightens the reader to the reality of it all, while at the same time managing to keep them hooked to her every word.
I read this in only a couple of hours. Sure, it’s not a very long book; but even the shortest of books can seem long when they can’t manage to keep me interested. In short, I Was Here had everything I expect from a Gayle Forman novel: emotional, heartbreaking, and engaging right until the very last word. My favourite aspect of the novel was, probably, the characters. Cody garnered a lot of sympathy from me throughout the novel as her internal struggle with what happened to Meg heightened, and it kind of broke of my heart at some points where she felt like she was the blame for not noticing her friend’s emotional instability. And then we have Meg herself: a bit of an enigma, if you ask me. In the beginning of the novel Cody painted such a bright picture of Meg, whereas when the novel progresses, a deeper look into Meg’s personality is examined; and although I felt sorry for her, it was frustrating and heartbreaking to see Meg never got the emotional care she really needed. (I felt like nobody really did anything about her depression – anti-depressants were mentioned, but that was it. Battling illnesses isn’t just about using drugs to smother the emotions, it’s about talking about them, and understanding them, and finding a way to re-route negative/depressing thinking. Where was any of that?) And because we, the reader, only see Meg through Cody’s eyes; so she was a hard character to get. Therefore my emotional investment in her was lowered.
Then we have Ben – AKA, “the boy with a guitar and sneer who broke Meg’s heart”. Now, he was an interesting character. It’s hard to say much without giving away things some readers might consider to be spoilers, so I’ll be vague, but I love the way Ben and Cody’s relationship was developed. From hate, to friendship. It was done slowly, gradually, in a way that made it believable to the reader. In saying this, I do wish some of the minor characters were greater explored, though I do realise the story was intended to be focused around Meg and Cody. I felt like they were shoved to the side more often than not, and felt pale in comparison to the other characters. My only other qualms with the novel was that and Meg’s characters – but all in all, I loved this novel.
If you’ve read and enjoyed Gale Forman’s other novels, then you’ll love this.
Thank you so much to Simon & Schuster for this ARC review copy. You guys are awesome.