Monday, January 12, 2015

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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


  1. I was looking forward to reading this one especially since I've never read a Gayle Foreman book before, but I'm going to skip this one. From all the reviews, it just doesn't sound like it's for me. I also would want to actually feel like Meg and Cody were inseperable instead of being told repeatedly. The romance doesn't sound that great either.
    Thanks for the review, Lauren. I'm sorry this didn't work for you! :(

  2. Just one day is one of my favorite books. Looking forward to reading I was here. Love Gayle Forman :)

  3. I hate admiting this but I think Gayle Forman books are all going downhill for me. I liked If I Stay but LOVED where she went. I then picked up JOD and really liked it but wasn't THAT big of a fan either. When I picked up JOY I ended up completely hating it and DNFing it just a few chapters in. As much as I thought I loved Gayle (and her romances) I think they just aren't working for me anymore so I wasn't really planning on picking this one up in the first place. That being said I've read quite a few reviews for this one so far and everyone seems to say the exact same thing. I'm sorry this one didn't completely work for you Lauren and I do your next read is more enjoyable.

  4. I'm sorry to hear that this one didn't work out for you, Lauren! That sucks when it happens with an author whose work you think you love. I've only read one work of Forman's and actually was not a fan, so I don't think I'll be trying this one. If I do read something else by her, I'll have to read Just One Day instead, I think.

  5. I would agree that this book didn't work for me too. She is still my auto read author but this book felt forced with the relationship :(

  6. I loved Where She Went and If I Stay, but Just One Day was a different story. I think I rated it 4 stars, but looking back on it I'd probably rate it lower today. I hated Willem. I couldn't stand that he had a girl just about everywhere he went, and I hated the ending. The fact that the second book was from his perspective made it a big fat no for me. Anyhow, I know I've gone off on a tangent here, but I'm trying to lead up to the fact that I think for now I'm parting ways with Gayle. This book sounds like a story I would completely hate. I'm thinking the best friend tried to follow in the dead girl's path to figure out why she committed suicide. Am I right? Well no thanks. Even if it's not that, this doesn't seem like a story that would bring me any pleasure. Wonderful review, Lauren. Thanks for helping me make my decision. :)

  7. Oh no no no!!! Funnily, I first read your last sentence which already made me super sad - it's like reading the end of a book first.. but that's besides the point.
    I was so excited for this one as I also love Gale Foreman so so much - especially If I Stay and Where She Went brought me to incredible tears and I was sobbing! Maybe I expect to much from her now but i'm a little scared now to read this... Especially when you said that you didn't care for the romance I think I lost interest for now about reading it.. :(

  8. You know, I've been hearing from a lot of readers that this is vastly different from what Forman usually writes and it hasn't been well-received. I also find it odd that after all the publicity and hype surrounding Just One Day/Just One Year, there is next to no publicity being done for this novel. I don't see Penguin shoving the cover of this in my face all the time and it's...weird. You'd think they'd capitalize on Forman's name to really sell this but this fell completely under my radar until VERY recently, which is odd.

    Regardless, I'm disappointed that this storyline didn't work out for you, Lauren. It seems like the type of tale that Forman would really be able to spin into a compelling novel but the fact that the direction of the plot wasn't quite right and especially that the romance fell flat and Ben never became that three-dimensional love interest for you doesn't bode well for my experience with this novel. Of course I'll read it but I'm definitely going to be going in with far lower expectations. Thanks for such an honest review, Lauren--let's hope Forman's next shines brighter than this one.

  9. I'm sorry to see that you weren't able to enjoy this one Lauren. Where She Went and Just One Day were two of my favourite reads, so I had high hopes for this one too. But I can totally understand how your lack of connection with Cody had an impact on your overall reading experience, I normally need some sort of connection to really enjoy a book. Also that's a shame about the romance too, Forman usually writes the best! I shall be picking this one up in the next few days, so I look forward to comparing notes. Thank you for the honest review!

  10. Lovely review, Lauren! I really struggled to connect with Cody as well, and was disappointed in the direction the book takes. It creeped me out, honestly. And it's such a shame not even the romance could save it. :/

    I know this didn't work for you, but I at least enjoyed discussing it with you on Twitter and getting all of your reactions, especially since I knew what was to come. :P I'm just glad I'm not the only one who feels this way.

  11. Aw, I'm sorry you had issues with this book Lauren :\ Disliking books you were hoping to love it just the saddest. I haven't read any books by this author yet, and I doubt I will like any of them. Sigh. Maybe one day, though :) I'm sorry you didn't like this one sweetie :\ And aw. Not liking the romance? Hmph. That is just wrong. Romance should be done amazingly in books, hih :) Thank you for sharing and being honest sweetie. <3

  12. I generally love Foreman's books but I'm kind of tired of guy "playas" and the "right" girl. Mostly, I just want to smack them on the back of the head and tell them to get over themselves. (This is cranky me coming out here.) I'm thinking this one might be a library read, rather than an auto-buy...

  13. Interesting to read a review that didn't enjoy this book. Thank you for your honest opinion.


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