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.
I Was Here is my first Gayle Forman book; as an avid YA reader, that’s pretty sacrilege. When i saw that there was a new non-series book, I figured what better place to start without total commitment to a series and lots of time.
Typically, I write pros and cons but that doesn’t work for every review.
From the get-go, I was intrigued. A suicide, a cryptic letter and a jaded protagonist-give me more.
As the story progressed, despite the premise and potential for sleuthing, I got bored. The plot is achingly slow for a good 1/2. Cody, the main character, is abrasive and borderline unlikable for a huge chunk of the story. Much of the plot is spent taking part in random, in eventful scenes that feel like a distraction from the overall arc. Cody appears to be wandering around aimlessly until she sniffs out something bizarre about her friend’s note.
I pushed myself through the dull sections because of the mystery. Something isn’t right about the note and has more clues are uncovered, the need to get to the bottom of how a seemingly happy, well-loved, popular girl resorted to suicide is irresistible-almost addictive.
Secondary characters were quirky, real, and way strange. There are tiny tidbits for some and bold sections for others. Despite the colorful bursts of info, Cody doesn’t make a connection with most of them, and if there is one, it’s faint.
The romance is stop and go, shaky, and for most of the plot, you’re not even sure if it can be called that. Cody and Ben don’t know what to do with each other and because of that neither does the reader. Because their relationship is so strewn together one moment and intense the next, it’s difficult to ship them one way or another.
What hooked me back into the story was the sickening banter between Cody and BS, and the whole suicide encouragement chat room world. When you think of the internet, you figure there’s something for everything on there but it never occurred to me that there would be groups like this that advocate ways to die with charts and everything else. It was eye-opening and terrifying. To someone who is struggling and feels like they can’t open up to anyone, these groups are a serious danger. As an outlet and open place, BS is able, through the chat room to influence and coerce in subtle, seemingly rational ways.
Cody’s sense of helplessness, anger and confusion, her guilt is overwhelming. Her best friend, someone she confided in and told everything too was thinking of suicide and Cody had no clue. Gayle Forman captures the intense emotions that consume and plague those left behind after a suicide, especially by those who were close to the victim.
A potent and important thread through I Was Here is that depression is not always visible. That even the brightest, joyful people can be living in mental darkness and feel like there’s no escape. The revelation is that despite our best efforts to see into the heads of our loved ones, sometimes it’s impossible and blaming ourselves for a friend’s suicide is never okay.
If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this: