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I Was Here by Gayle Forman | Estelle Reviews

I Was Here by Gayle FormanI Was Here by Gayle Forman ( web | twitter )
Published January 27, 2015 by Penguin/Viking Books
Pages: 
288
Target audience: Young adult
Keywords: post-high school, secrets, suicide, mystery, class
Format read: ARC borrowed from Alex. (Thanks!)

Summary: Cody is shocked to receive an email from her best friend, Meg, telling her that she has committed suicide. The Meg she has loved forever would never do something like this. Filled with grief she doesn’t know what to do with, Cody sets forth to get to the bottom of Meg’s mysterious death and stumbles upon some hard truths.

What do you say about a book that is beautifully, honestly written and addictive but doesn’t hit the mark?

I’m not sure but I’m going to try.

I’m a huge fan of Gayle Forman’s writing. Her Just One Day and Just One Year are two of the best books I’ve ever read in my almost 30 years. For me, those books stand out of her canon because they are all about balance. Yes, they are driven by attraction and maybe love but it’s also about growing pains, discovering yourself, and your relationships with the many people around you from your parents to your best friend to the stranger you let into your life. If I tried to pinpoint why I Was Here doesn’t rank as high for me as these two, I could say it was about the balance.

Cody is mystified when she receives an email from her best friend the day after she commits suicide. How could someone as vivacious as Meg end her life? And more importantly, how could she even be thinking about this precisely planned suicide without saying anything to Cody? Forman quickly delves us into the complex feelings associated with a death like this one. There is the despair and disbelief but there is also the selfish side. How could they leave me?

At first, Cody is prepared to go to Meg’s apartment and pack up her things (as a favor to the Garcia’s, who have always been a family to Cody) and try to move on. But something is nagging Cody. Meg’s note was a little strange, even her little brother notices. Did someone force Meg to do this? Suddenly, Cody finds herself jumping into this mystery by reading Meg’s emails, meeting her friends in Seattle (Alice, Robert, and Harry were GREAT), and trying to figure out what was going on in her head. It’s difficult to realize your best friend has qualities and tendencies you never knew about but an entire new life in a new city? It seems the girls are being pulled even farther apart as Cody throws herself down this rabbit hole.

The rabbit hole leads her to Ben, a boy that was friends with Meg. Cody is hardwired to be independent, in a way that means brushing off help from others all the time. But Ben really knew Meg, even if they weren’t on the best terms in the end, and Cody can’t help but let him take part in whatever she is trying to do. She seems to be taken with him, and he seems to be surprised by her but there is so much fucked up complication here, at times I didn’t know what to think. This is one of the parts of the book where I needed more. I was so wrapped up in Cody’s detective skills that the chemistry between these two was a little rushed and lukewarm especially because Ben felt like a caricature of Forman’s past male characters and not his own person.

I Was Here is a tough story for many reasons but one of them is that readers only meet Meg in flashbacks. Forman always does this amazing job of presenting these tiny nuances in human relationships that so many other authors pass over, and it helps us to better understand these characters but, at times, it was hard to really feel the connection between Cody and Meg. Maybe this is because Cody was struggling with it too. She hadn’t imagined she would be separated from Meg when they graduated high school but plans changed and that distances was, in fact, inevitable. The opportunity of getting over those weird transition conflicts was cut short, and, perhaps, that is the most heartbreaking part of all.

All in all, this book presented the darker, edgier side of Forman that I love. All of her characters have this inner badass and act as imperfect humans do — a plus. But another 100 pages and a departure from a few overused young adult troupes would have made this a whole other ballgame.

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February 3, 2015 - 8:00 am

Young Adult Books & After High School - […] I first picked when I Was Here by Gayle Forman (my review) a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to learn the main characters had graduated from high […]

January 31, 2015 - 8:36 pm

It's a Wrap | January @ Rather Be Reading - […] Other Theories by Alex Bass Perfect Couple by Jennifer Echols Beneath Beautiful by Allison Rushby I Was Here by Gayle Forman Love on the Lifts by Jill Santopolo Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman (also a […]

January 23, 2015 - 3:57 pm

Alexa S. - I’m really curious to see how I’m going to feel about I Was Here. I want to love it (because it’s Gayle), but I’m also not sure I will based on what I’ve been seeing in many reviews. I really do think I’ll enjoy this one for what it is, but I don’t know how I’ll feel about it in comparison with the Just One Day/Just One Year duo or even Where She Went. We’ll have to wait and see!

January 21, 2015 - 1:02 am

Discussion: On Changing Ratings - […] — so after mentioning this on Twitter, Estelle happened to comment and ask for my thoughts on her review of I Was Here by Gayle Forman, which was both related and unrelated all at the same time. She thought our opinions differed a […]

January 19, 2015 - 10:43 am

Bruna - I’ve been wanting to read this one, because I loved If I Stay and Where She Went, but it has been getting a lot of mixed reviews. Most people seem to rate it around average. I still want to read it, but I think I’ll go with the Just One Day duology for my next Gayle Forman read.

January 18, 2015 - 8:26 pm

Alexa - Aw that is too bad that this one wasn’t better. I really loved If I Stay by her and want to read more of her books. Although it does sound like she explores darker things so I hope I like this one.
Thanks for the great review!

January 16, 2015 - 6:05 am

Kim - Hmm, now I don’t know if I want to read this or not. I’ve been hearing mixed reviews, and I’m kind of scared to dive into it. I hated Just One Day, but I loved If I Stay, so there’s that too.
Kim @ Divergent Gryffindor
Looking for Guest Reviewers!

January 15, 2015 - 9:53 pm

Hazel @ Stay Bookish - I could totally understand were you’re coming from here, Estelle. Although I quite liked this a little more than you did, it’s not a Forman favourite either unlike her Just One Day series. I seriously was skeptical about the too quick connection between Ben and Cody at first but that ending totally won me over. And I think, for most part, I was just really able to appreciate the beauty and honesty in Gayle’s words and the story that I couldn’t help but really like the book. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one!

January 15, 2015 - 3:59 pm

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - You know… I know you told me that we disagreed a bit but the more I think about this book, looking back I don’t get those FEELS that I did with her other books. I was falling head over heels for Adam in Where She Went — like ASTRONOMICAL LOVE and I totally connected with Allyson in Just One Day… But I really DIDN’T connect with Meg or Cody or Ben. I WANTED to and I tried to and I tried to blame it on the fact that this was a bit more plot-heavy than character-driven, but it still comes down to the fact that the overwhelming love and/or emotion really wasn’t there for me.
I loved how the romance ended but I also wanted to spend so much more time there.

January 15, 2015 - 11:59 am

Hannah @ So Obsessed With - I totally agree on struggling to feel the connection between Cody and Meg! At times, I felt like Cody cared more about WHY Meg committed suicide than she did about Meg herself. It felt a bit odd to me that Cody felt so shocked that there was so much she didn’t know about Meg because it seemed pretty obvious to me that there was clearly some distance / cooling off in their relationship. I think what I also struggled with is that there were things that happen in the book that made me not want to give this to a teenager, if that makes sense? I felt this shift from reader to almost like concerned parent. It was strange! I like the idea of Forman writing about a darker topic, but this just didn’t work for me either. Maybe it relied a bit too much on tropes and didn’t develop certain aspects enough? I’m not totally sure, but it was a frustrating read for me overall.

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