Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Genre: YA - Contemporary (16+)
Genre: YA - Contemporary (16+)
Violence | Sexual Content | Profanity
♪ Zedd - Clarity (feat. Foxes) ♪
It has been two months since I read this book, so forgive me for not really remembering too many of the specifics about this book. I still remember the important things, so I guess that's all that matters. I'm sure that my dwindling memory is not at all a reflection on the impact that this book had on me. I remember being very moved by Forman's words in I Was Here. Maybe not as much as If I Stay (that book will forever have my heart), but I still remember being moved.
I Was Here is a book about grief, and life and love. We follow our main character Cody who is devastated by her best friend Meg's recent death (she ingested a whole bottle of industrial-strength cleaner in a faraway motel room). She is left with many questions, but most of all: Why? Until she starts to dig a little deeper, and discovers that maybe it wasn't entirely of her own volition. Cody will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of this. It might not bring her best friend back, but maybe, just maybe finding truth will help to ease her overwhelming feelings of guilt that came with drifting apart from her best friend when she moved away for college, and not even knowing about this side of her.
It is no surprise that I am a huge fan of Gayle Forman's writing. She is a beautiful person and author who I hope to one day have the pleasure to meet. She has a unique talent of breathing life into the characters she creates. I fell so hard for Adam and Mia in If I Stay and Where She Went. I held my breath for Allyson and Willem in Just One Day and Just One Year. Cody resonates within me on a core level. I may not have lost a friend to suicide, but I have lost friends to reasons entirely outside of my own control. People just grow apart. And like Cody, I have harboured intense feelings of guilt and questioning and grief and worry. Like Cody I care a lot, though I may be blindsided at times and miss out on the bigger picture. We may not learn too much about her. For me, sometimes it's not extremely important that the character have an illustrious background and personality. Sometimes it's just enough that the reader is able to relate to them on some intrinsic level, if the plot works.
I've always been inherently more drawn to dreary books about misery, death, grief and forgiveness. I'm inherently more drawn to journeys of self-discovery. Where many people prefer physical adventures in books, I have always preferred the more internal adventures that characters go through. Which is, I suppose, why contemporary YA is such a delight for me to read. In I Was Here, Cody, as well as Meg's family (and Ben McAllister), all go through this journey in their own ways. This book is just swimming in emotion. Despite that, there is a certain shallowness in the exploration of these topics. I just felt like there could have been more.
Cody meets Ben McAllister, who was this cool, brooding guitar-playing guy who broke Meg's heart. I can't say that I loved the romance, it felt sort of forced. Girl meets dead best friend's ex. Vows never to fall for him. Falls for him anway. I felt that it was an angle that has been explored way too much. This trope just needs tyo die. I can understand the appreciate the way how grief can connect people as well as separate people, and in this case Cody and Ben connected through their connection (and unfinished business, guilt and grief) to Meg. But. It felt unnecessary. It felt like the author just needed so desperately to add in a romance to drive the plot forward. Anyway, that's just my own opinion.
The ending is quite hopeful, and the characters end up in a place where they have forgiven themselves even just that little bit so they can start to move on with their lives. I think this is an important message and an important book for young readers to indulge in. Grief can be an all-consuming emotion, especially when there are so many unanswered questions to rack your brain over. Overall this book kept me entertained and glued to the pages. I love Gayle Forman's writing so much and while this one didn't quite hit the nail on the head for me I still appreciate this book and eagerly await her next release.
"'...It wasn't your fault. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't your fault.'
I repeat the words that I wish someone would say to me, and then suddenly we are kissing. I taste his grief and his need and his tears and my tears. (136)