I Was Here
by Gayle Forman
Read: January 3 - 7, 2015
Published: January 27, 2015 by Viking Juvenile
Source: Lent by Jen @ YA Romantics
Category: Contemporary YA, suicide, grief
Find: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
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.
I am a fan of Gayle Forman and have enjoyed all of her previous books and novellas. I've connected well to her heroines in the past, especially Allyson from Just One Day. I've happily swooned at her romances, though my favorite is the slow reconnection of Where She Went. Forman is also very good at linking past and present in her stories, so we grow to love characters we never meet in person. Unfortunately, none of that happened for me with this book.
I Was Here was nothing that I anticipated and that didn't end up being a good thing. As the story wore on I struggled to connect to the heroine Cody, and I never understood Meg, her best friend whose suicide drives Cody's journey. See that bold section of the official description above: "Cody and Meg were inseparable. Two peas in a pod." I was told about that a lot, but I never felt it, which pulled me out of the story as it wore on. Also, even though this book is short, it was slow in places. There are large sections where Cody doesn't do much but clean houses and go online at the library in an endless loop. Still she manages - to her own admission - to descend down a dark rabbit hole. Eventually she does something that is so crazy and beyond all rational sense that she lost me completely.
While I can very much appreciate Cody's desperation to find answers to her best friend's shocking suicide, and I admire her persistence, I could not get behind the direction she took her focus. I never thought it would bring answers, and even though I can see that it was a way for Cody to feel closer to Meg, I never felt close to Meg or drawn in this direction. Unfortunately, as a result, a large chunk of the book felt like a dangerous tangent. There are some strong scenes near the end of revelation and growth for Cody, but they came way too late for me. The last chapter was touching, however.
Although a minor element in the story, I didn't care for the romance, which surprised me, because I generally love that part of Forman's books. The author does seem to favor a kind of guy, and I have trouble with the "player who changes when he finds the right girl" love interest in general. Sadly, Ben mostly remained an overused type instead of a real person to me. Plus as I struggled with my connection with Cody, I needed more from both of them to get why he was so drawn to her. Especially with how she treats him in the second half of the book. I will echo other reviewers in saying I Was Here could have done without the love element, but the story became so dark and isolating that I was desperate for some balance or levity.
I'm definitely still anticipate what Gayle Forman writes next, but I'm sad to say that I Was Here didn't work for me.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Standalone