Published by Simon and Schuster Australia on January 27, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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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.
Everyone copes with grief differently, and I Was Here did wonderfully in presenting a different side to the story, of a girl who just couldn’t sit down and cope. She had to be proactive and to find some purpose in her friend’s suicide, in an attempt to internally justify her actions and to right wrongs. Instead of just being about the emotions, it had an unexpected darker and sinister tone to it.
I Was Here was a quick read that I read in one sitting. I was swept up into Cody’s story as she investigates where Meg was in the months before her suicide, from the people she talked to, where she went online, and the guys that she dated. There’s an interesting investigative element to it, as Cody questions Meg’s roommates and combs through her email for information.
I liked how Cody dealt with her emotional loss by being proactive and trying to find answers, instead of sitting down and trying to overcome it herself. Being dubbed as ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, Cody was brave and proactive as she searched for answers to her friend’s decision. But when she stumbles upon a creepy suicide support group which Meg participated in, that’s when things turned weird. Without turning into spoiler territory, Cody gets a bit too obsessive when it comes to Meg’s actions, and she starts making questionable and unsafe decisions which didn’t sit right with me.
I remember how I read those messages over and over, even though it physically hurt to do so. I missed her so much, and wished I could’ve been there, could’ve gone through with our plans. But I never told her that. There’s a lot that I didn’t tell her. And even more that she didn’t tell me.
While she gets involved with Ben, the last guy Meg was seeing, and she begins participating in the forum, I witnessed Cody actually turning into Meg. It was weird how she found some comfort in it and even when she realised the extent of her decisions, she just kept on chasing the rabbit down the hole. There’s being proactive, and then there’s being obsessive and fixated for your own selfish reasons, which I felt what Cody had become. She just couldn’t get over the fact that Meg had this secret life she didn’t tell her about, and even though they were best friends, Meg’s entitled to her own life. For the most part, I couldn’t relate to her way of thinking and some of her decisions, even though I found it compelling and fascinating.
The romance was weird as well, following exact the same pattern of Megs by beginning with friendship and then evolving into something more. I felt like she was selfish and unfair with Ben, as one of the only people who cared about Meg as much as she did. I didn’t really like how she treated him at all, and felt that the romance was actually quite forced.
I did like how the main characters were college age though, with clubbing, drinking and sex being explored. We need more books in this gap and I Was Here satiated that need.
As the second book I’ve read of Gayle Forman’s, I don’t think her writing is for me. Her common themes are redemption and regret, and in order to do so there are some pretty weird things that her characters seem to do, like Cody being nosy and selfish. While I Was Here had beautiful writing with some compelling themes about suicide and grief, I just couldn’t connect to the main character or the romance.
Rating: 3 out of 5
I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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