Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Title: I Was Hereiwh

Author: Gayle Forman

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Source: Purchased

Check this book out on Goodreads.

Buy this book at: Chapters | Book Depository

4 stars

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. (Source: Goodreads)

Cody’s best friend, Meg, recently committed suicide. Meg’s parents, who practically raised Cody, aren’t ready to go and clean out her apartment, so they send Cody instead. When Cody gets there she realizes there’s a lot about Meg that she never really knew. While this includes the reason’s why Meg took her life, it also includes people Cody’s never heard of, including Ben. Ben who broke Meg’s heart. As Cody investigates the reason’s why Meg took her life, she can’t help but blame herself, and it turns out Ben is also blaming himself. So they work together to try and figure things out.

I’m so on the fence about this book. I loved it, but there was just something missing. The characters are great and interesting, but there’s something of a barrier between you and them. The plot is fantastic, I don’t have any complaints at all about it. I liked that there was a focus on Cody’s feelings, this wasn’t so much a book about suicide and the person committing suicide, as the people left behind. There was also an aspect of “thriller” to this book as it turns out some of Meg’s secrets are kind of dangerous – this really kept the action moving. I don’t think it had the same emotional range as Forman’s previous books, which made it not as enjoyable. I loved this book, but there were so many things that would have made me love it so, so much more.

This story is about Cody, not Meg, which means that you never really know Meg. You know what she meant to Cody, and the hole left in her place, but you don’t really get to know who she is, or what she like. You do get to know Cody though, but only the Cody that remains after Meg is gone. This means that you get to know how she is grieving. She’s angry and bitter, mostly towards her self. She’s jealous of other people, people she thinks were there for Meg when she should have been. I think the way her character was build and developed was really interesting and well done. I don’t think I connected with her the way I connected with If I Stay‘s Mia, I don’t think I could have, she’s very closed off. I loved her though, and I think that’s important that you can love her despite the fact that she’s kind of shrinking into herself after Meg is gone even though her world is opening up.

I liked Ben. There’s something kind of magnetic about him, which is very much like If I Stay‘s Adam, and this former dirtbag quality (a bit like Just One Day‘s Willem). He’s definitely not those two though, far from them. There’s something a little scary about him, he’s very angry. This is also a lot at himself, and at his father, but still comes out. There’s also this sweetness to him, which comes out kind of randomly, like when he prints out pictures of the kittens he rescues and gives them to Cody. I really appreciated that the romance wasn’t the focus of the book. I mean, you get long portions of the book with Cody and Ben just being together, but their relationship isn’t the focus as much as Cody’s journey. The relationship kind of sneaks up on both of them. It felt a little rushed to me, to be honest, and I don’t know if it would stand the test of time like Adam and Mia’s or Allison and Willem’s. I liked it, but it missed the mark a little for me.

There’s definitely an aspect of “thriller” to this book. As Cody digs into Meg’s secrets it starts to feel dark and dangerous. This was really interesting. It takes on a bit of a murder investigation feel for most of the book, as Cody tries to figure out why Meg took her own life. It helped keep the pace up, which I think otherwise could have been kind of slow. The book takes a lot of twists as well, many of which were unexpected, but some were obvious, but were twists to Cody. For some parts of the book I think you’re supposed to be aware of what Cody is not, most of all that it isn’t her fault that Meg died. This means that the book, for me, sometimes became something kind of different. It was like I was watching Cody grow into herself, and to learn to understand what happened to Meg, and what happened to her. It’s often hard for children, teenagers, even adults to accept that sometimes no one is responsible for things like suicide, and this leads to them seeking blame. It was really good that Forman explored this avenue of grieving.

Some other really great things about this book!! There’s a good discussion of the stigma regarding mental health. I think this is a really important issue, it was also in All the Bright Placeswhich just makes me beyond happy because we need to talk about mental health. Forman also provides some fantastic resources about suicide and depression at the end of the book.

I loved this book, but there was that lack as I’ve said. The missing bits and pieces that stopped me from loving this book in the way I loved Forman’s previous books. I appreciated this book, and I appreciate Gayle Forman for making this book, which takes on the topic of suicide in a way that’s different from other recent books (like All the Bright Places). I definitely recommend this book, but I have to say if this is where you start with Forman believe me it only gets better in her other books.

Ramble on,

Have you read I Was HereLet me know your thoughts in the comments!
Check out Gayle Forman at her website, blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Connect with me on Goodreads, BlogLovin, and Twitter.

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