I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Series: I Was Here #1
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Published On: January 29, 2015
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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 follows Cody, who one day receives an unexpected email from her best friend, Meg, explaining that Meg had committed suicide. Believing that her and Meg knew everything about each other, Cody is surprised when, having agreed to travel to Meg’s college campus to collect her belongings, she discovers a lot about her best friend that she never knew. After discovering this new information, Cody attempts to understand her best friend, and what led her to such extreme measures.
After being slightly underwhelmed by my first Gayle Forman read, If I Stay, I wasn’t sure what to expect of this one. I wasn’t drawn in straight away and found the first 100 or so pages to be a little slow. However, once I did get into the story I began to really enjoy it.
I found Cody to be a very relatable character. Though I have never been in a situation similar to the one she is in during this book, and we really are not very alike, I found it very easy to relate to Cody and the way she responded to various situations. I really enjoyed her as a main character.
As well as having a great main character, there were also many great supporting characters in this book. I loved all of the side characters, though not always upon first meeting, and really enjoyed reading about them. As I have mentioned before, I love child characters in books, so obviously Scottie, Meg’s younger brother, was my favourite.
I was very impressed with how well this book deals with very important, difficult issues. The topic of suicide was covered with great sensitivity, but it’s importance within the story, and society, was made clear. I think it is great that the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness was emphasised and importance placed on the need to talk about these issues. This message in particular may be greatly beneficial to many people.
I love that Gayle Forman went against the norm in showing that even the ‘normal’ families have their problems. It is common in YA novels to see the ‘normal’ families as the perfect example of what a family should be, while the more dysfunctional families are seen to be the ones with all the problems. However, this story particularly emphasises that fact that a family may appear to the outside world to be a ‘normal’ or ‘perfect’ family, but they have their own issues as well. I also appreciated, having grown up in what may be seen as a dysfunctional family myself, the emphasis placed on the fact that these families can be just as loving and supportive as any other.
The one thing I didn’t particularly like about this book was the romance aspect. While the characters did seem to have some connection, the romance aspect slightly threw me. I felt it was an unnecessary addition to the story and, given the history of the two characters, it all happened a bit to quickly for me.
Overall, I had a few small problems with this book, like not getting into it right away, but I did really enjoy it in the end. I thought Gayle Forman did a fantastic job of covering such a serious topic in a sensitive yet informative way. I believe this story was inspired by a true story, as is explained at the end of the book, and I think she definitely did the story justice.