139. I was Here- Gayle Forman

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Title: I was Here

Author: Gayle Forman

Rating: ★★★

On the Shelves: YA Fiction> Contemporary

Publication Date: 29th January 2015

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. (Goodreads 2014)

Firstly I need to thank the author, the publishers at Simon and Schuster UK Children’s, and Netgalley for allowing me early access to this book.

(I appreciate I am a bit early with this review, but given how behind I am with netgalley at the moment, I’d rather be early than late when I can- and I actually have nothing else to post at the moment due to being in work constantly!)

After reading and absolutely adoring Gayle Forman’s “If I Stay” (click for my review), I really want to read more of her work. So when I saw “I was here” on netgalley, I had no hesitation in clicking “request”. I enjoy Forman’s writing so far because she isn’t shying away from contemporary and somewhat controversial topics. No doubt this book will be banned somewhere in the world due to the themes of the material. Because you know, god forbid teen books contain anything more serious than vampire romances.

Obvious Trigger Warning time: This book contains themes surrounding Suicide. (Although if you didn’t gather that from the synopsis then….how?)

“I was here” follows Cody, a teenager whose best friend recently took her own life for reasons apparently unknown to everyone. What follows is Cody unravelling what exactly convinced Meg to leave her family and friends behind when it seems so out of character from the Meg who Cody knew and loved. As Cody discovers more and more, it appears that Meg did not make this decision entirely on her own. This is also a story about forgiveness.

While I admire Forman for having the guts to write about such a topic, which will no doubt be sensitive to a lot of different people for many different reasons, something about this book just didn’t gel for me. I found the romance between Cody and Ben both unnecessary and annoying, and I also wish that the whole “internet” thing (I won’t explain due to spoilers) hadn’t become such a factor within the reasons for Meg’s actions, because I felt it took away some of the impact. I feel it would have been better if it had just been entirely Meg’s decision and the reason why (you find out at the end), and not so much the element of her being manipulated by someone (or someones…)- gah, this is hard to talk about without spoilers!

The writing itself was at a nice pace, although it did get a bit preachy towards the end, and I really wish we’d had more flashbacks of the friendship between Meg and Cody, just to strengthen Meg’s character. Cody kept saying how the suicide was “unlike” Meg but…we didn’t really have too much of a look at her character apart from the occasional flashbacks and a glimpse into her bedroom.

I want to read Forman’s “Just One Day” duology and this certainly hasn’t put me off her writing or anything, but I do feel that something was missing, for me, in this book and I’ll be interested to see how various groups and people react to it, given the topic at hand, because it is certainly controversial.

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