Title: I Was Here
Author: Gayle Forman
Rating: ★ ★ ★ 1/2
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Format Read: ARC, 288 pages
Publication Date: 1st February 2015 by Simon & Schuster Australia
Synopsis:“From the bestselling author of If I Stay – this summer’s YA blockbuster film.
This characteristically powerful novel follows eighteen-year-old Cody Reynolds in the months following her best friend’s shocking suicide.
As Cody numbly searches for answers as to why Meg took her own life, she begins a journey of self-discovery which takes her to a terrifying precipice, and forces her to question not only her relationship with the Meg she thought she knew, but her own understanding of life, love, death and forgiveness.
A phenomenally moving story, I Was Here explores the sadly all-too-familar issue of suicide and self-harm, addressing it in an authentic way with sensitivity and honesty.” (Taken from Simon & Schuster Australia)
This book absolutely surprised me, and in a good way. I’ve only read one other Gayle Forman book and that is If I Stay. To be quite honest I wasn’t all that enamoured by it and felt the writing style was quite choppy with all the flashbacks and such. I expected a similar feel to I Was Here, but was pleasantly surprised when a lack of flashbacks occurred.
This new book is very different to If I Stay, especially in terms of themes. However, Forman’s solid writing style remains the same as she creates believable characters that you can easily relate to. In I Was Here, we follow a small town girl called Cody whose best friend, Meg, took her own life. As Cody comes to terms with what happened, she embarks on a journey to look for the answer of why Meg – the person she thought had everything together – would take her own life.
Cody’s relationship with Meg was strained when Meg left their small town to attend college near Seattle. Unable to follow due to a lack of funds, Cody was left behind. Their friendship becomes strained along the way so when Meg is suddenly gone, Cody can’t help but blame herself for contributing somewhat to Meg’s suicide. However, Cody soon discovers a bunch of deleted emails and an encrypted folder on Meg’s computer that sets her on a journey to discover who else may have played a part in Meg’s death.
While the book moved along very slowly, the story was interesting enough to have me flipping through the pages. Cody, who’s so estranged from the world without Meg, soon discovers that there’s much more to life than enclosing herself to the stereotypical small town life. She soon becomes friends with all of Meg’s college roommates during her search for answers, and even finds love with a ‘bad boy’ guitarist who’s linked to her friend as well.
The relationship I loved most was the one Cody had with her mum. Not your typical mother-daughter relationship, Cody calls her mum Tricia and they often lack a sense of familial bond as her mum had her very young. But when the time comes and Cody needs the reassuring love of family, Tricia manages to step up to the plate. They have a very special and delicate relationship, but it was so realistic and believable I couldn’t help but shed a few tears towards the end.
Cody’s bond with her romantic interest, Ben, was a little odd. Ben is connected to Meg as they were friends prior to Meg’s suicide and even had sex once. When Cody discovers Ben’s cold emails to Meg, she jumps to conclusions and blames Ben for his part in Meg’s death. However there’s more than meets the eye with player Ben, and Cody soon begins to lean on him more and more as her search for answers deepen and she discovers a suicide assistance forum that Meg spent time on.
Once Cody discovers the forum, I found her actions turned shadier and shadier. Forman wrote her in such a nonchalant way that the reader barely thinks twice about what Cody does – but when you step back and reflect on the book, I personally could not help but feel a little irked by her actions. Everything she did from that point on can be considered stalking, but the issue is never addressed. Stalking is never the answer, especially assessing private information like someone’s address without permission. Regardless of Cody’s emotional stability at the time, someone within her circle should have brought up the issue with her, yet they all just watched as the trainwreck rolled on.
Aside from my issue with Cody’s shady actions towards the end, the book was very enjoyable! I liked it a lot more than If I Stay and didn’t mind the romance either since it didn’t overtake the actual story. Forman definitely has a way with exploring the sensitive issues in life because she does it in a way that doesn’t scrutinise or downplay taboo topics. There’s a delicate line when handling such a topic in novels intended for the YA audience, and I’m glad to say that Forman neither crosses it nor negates the seriousness of the issue. She writes about it with a touch of reality that you can’t help but think about its possibility of occurrence no matter who or where you are in the world.
While I wouldn’t rush out to read all of Forman’s books, I will continue to praise her for her handling of topics that most people wouldn’t tackle.
This was overall a solid read that Forman fans would definitely love.
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review as part of a campaign with Aussie YA Bloggers & Readers on Goodreads.