Publishing Info: January 27, 2015 by Penguin
Genres: Contemporary, Psych/Mental Health, Realistic Fiction, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Date Completed: October 16, 2014
Related Posts: If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Sisters in Sanity, If I Stay (If I Stay #1), Where She Went (If I Stay #2), Just One Day (Just One Day #1), Just One Night (Just One Day #2.5), Leave Me, I Have Lost My Way
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.
It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE Gayle Forman fan so needless to say, I WAS HERE was one of my most anticipated reads of 2015 that I hope to read way before 2015. Firstly, it was Gayle Forman so I knew I WAS HERE would not only bring a new level of intensity and maturity — since I’ve seen her writing grow each book — but also an onslaught of raw emotion that I fell head over heels for in books like IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY.
I devoured I WAS HERE in a single day. Granted, I was home sick with a cold, but in a way, I was kind of thankful for it because this was a book I didn’t want to put down. My first reaction after finishing was that I WAS HERE definitely had a different feel than Gayle Forman’s previous books… But looking back, JUST ONE DAY and JUST ONE YEAR were also very different from IF I STAY/WHERE SHE WENT. I do have moments where reading a new book from a dearly cherished author is hard. Yes, IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY (and their respective companions) both dealt with loss and relatives being taken from the main characters when they were far too young… but I WAS HERE deals with not only loss of life but someone you thought you knew inside and out choosing to leave this world and everyone else in it behind. (Of course those with experience dealing with depression know that it’s much more complicated than a “choice”, but since this is a review, I’m not going to get into that whole discussion!)
I WAS HERE felt quite a bit different than Gayle’s previous books in two noticeable ways for me. The first was that there was much more of a plot driven by the need to find an answer to a mystery. Obviously any plot has to have some sort of need for a resolution otherwise the book seems to have no point… but with Gayle’s previous books, it was much more about the characters finding an answer about themselves versus an outside motive, which brings me to the second big difference for me: the involvement of a third major character. Although Meg has already taken her life at the start of the book, she’s the driving force behind the whole novel and everything that Cody does. Cody and male lead Ben would never meet without the connection through Meg and it creates a sort of triangle (no, not a love triangle, although things do tend to get a little sticky with Ben and Meg being close at one point) or circle of events that tend to loop back around from person to person. IF I STAY and JUST ONE DAY certainly had other characters that played their own roles, but the focus was very much on a decision and self-discovery that the main character has to make and their romantic connection to another character. With a third element in the story, for some reason it just held and entirely different feel for me.
It may sound like this is bad thing but it’s definitely not. I think it’s hard to read an author’s work when you sort of sense a “pattern” and start to get comfortable with what to expect. It was a bit different for me to read I WAS HERE with this new “pattern”, new subject matter, and a brand-new feel but that also taught me not to get comfortable with what I read. My favorite authors will always be writing something new, constantly improving themselves and their writing, and bringing fresh topics to their readers and I’m so impressed with how no matter what Gayle Forman has written so far, I’ve fallen in love with each book she’s penned in very different ways. I love how I can read a book by one of my favorite authors and get something a little different each time, knowing that it keeps her growing as a writer and me growing as a reader. I’m getting a bit off-topic here, but from what I’ve heard when seeing Gayle speak at events, I feel like this is definitely something that’s important to her so I feel a small sense of pride when I notice something like that.
I got a bit technical with the review here, but don’t worry — there are also some major swoons! Yes, there is a bit of romance and it’s incredibly interesting to see how it unfolds. Cody meets Ben under some strange and tense circumstances (which makes sense considering she’s essentially looking further into her friend’s suicide and Ben was one of the people she talked to the most) so there’s quite the tension wondering what will happen between the two — and if anything COULD ever happen between the two — due to Ben’s previous interactions with Meg. Personally? I loved how everything was handled. I don’t want to say TOO much about it because it’s best for the reader to discover that for themselves, but I ended up explaining the situation to someone else and I really think it all unfolded in the best way possible.
Naturally in a Gayle Forman book, there is no shortage of gut-punching feels. The loss of Meg is just devastating to everyone she was connected to. I’ve never experienced a loss like that and I can’t even imagine what people have gone through that have felt like, but reading books that deal with topics such as death and suicide, I really tend to latch on to the families and friends of these characters pretty hard and I tend to sort of lose myself in the book. It’s definitely a heavy-hitting book as far as emotional roller coasters go but Gayle Forman knows exactly where to lead you on that journey. It’s really interesting to see different character’s reactions and I think she did a great job of showing a wide range of handling grief. One might thing it manifests only in sadness but some characters — especially Cody — experience anything from confusion to anger to depression to motivation. As always, I just really love how real every character felt and Gayle Forman always does an amazing job at bringing characters, setting, and emotions to life in her books.
When I sat down to write this review, I did NOT plan to write seven paragraphs. In fact, I had no idea what I was possibly going to say. I worried that it would sound like I hated the book since it was so hard for me to rate. I feel like usually “hard ratings” are due to overwhelming emotions for people — which yes, it was for me — but also that “different feeling” for me made it hard for me to assess my true feelings for the book. Obviously once I started writing about it, it was obvious how much this book really moved me and, well, I already knew it was a 4.5 to 5 star book for me, but being able to talk about it only convinced me more. Sometimes reviews just tend to take you on a journey you didn’t expect and my review for I WAS HERE certainly did that for me. Personally, I can’t wait to see what this book helps other people discover! I’m really looking forward to discussing this one with people. (Now that I’ve found the words, I know you can too!)
“The View from Goodreads” is a featured section in my reviews that I decided to incorporate! I tend to update my Goodreads status a LOT when I read — reactions, feelings, notes — so I thought it would be fun to share the sort of “reading process”! All status updates are spoiler-free (no specific plot points will be revealed) but will contain reactions to certain pages and/or characters!
Cody // Character Obsessions: Meg, looking into her suicide, grieving.
Oh, oh, Cody. I can’t even imagine what she went through after losing Meg and then feeling like she had to take it even further to investigate. That’s just so painful. Cody was a really interesting character, though. She possessed such strength and I was absolutely rooting for her as I witnessed her waffling from grief to strength and everything in between. I loved her loyalty to Meg, even after her death, and I was scared for her in more ways than one. I really loved getting to know her in this book and also just wanted to hug her.
Ben // Character Obsessions: Music, his sister, girls.
There was a period of time that I wasn’t sure if we should like Ben… But the more I got to know about him, the more I did like and the more I found out, the more I got to see beneath the rough exterior. (Okay, it wasn’t really that rough, but he took a while to figure out.) Anyway. I don’t want to say TOO much about him because again — another thing for the reader to explore on their own!
Kept Me Hooked On: Being so involved that I can’t stop reading. I love books that I can read in one day. I wasn’t exactly sure where this story was taking me and what I would read and what I would feel but I was just SO involved in what was going on. I couldn’t stop reading and I couldn’t put this book down.
Left Me Wanting More: Familiarity? Honestly, it’s hard to say. I really enjoyed this book a LOT but I was also missing SOMETHING (still not 100% sure what) that “felt” like a Gayle book. It was just a feeling that I couldn’t pinpoint. Like I said, not necessarily a bad thing, but something that happens as authors grow! Things change and hey, they need to from book to book so the books don’t get old and feel like they’re repeating themselves. I just can’t quite name what felt different and a tiny bit less familiar but it did.
I mean, it’s Gayle Forman. I knew I couldn’t and wouldn’t be let down! I WAS HERE was a very emotional and moving read. I was completely hooked and utterly interested and it certainly made me think about a lot. Gayle’s characters always just feel so real. I think fans of Gayle Forman will love it and people who haven’t been totally sold on her previous books (I mean, I like to pretend that doesn’t happen, but I know you’re out there!) should definitely give this one a shot.
BOOKS LIKE I WAS HERE
(Click the cover to see my review!)