I Was Here by Gayle Forman
When Cody’s best friend, Meg, takes her own life, Cody is left with a hole that she’s unable to fill. She is consumed by her friend’s death. In a nutshell: the beginning hooks you; the middle won’t let you go and the ending will have you waiting with bated breath to see how it all goes down. The plot is P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N.
Cody narrates the story, feeding us little bits about Meg and her life while simultaneously chronicling her own grief and how she processes it. I love the personality we get with Cody’s voice and what’s more, I feel like I’m reading a journal, something so real and tangible like I was there when it unfolded. It’s nothing short of a beautiful, authentic narrative and here’s one of my favourite moments:
“I used to spend so much time at Meg’s house that I could tell what kind of mood Sue was in by what I smelled when I walked through the door. Butter meant baking, which meant she was melancholy and needed cheering. Spicy meant she was happy and making hot Mexican food, for Joe, even though it hurt her stomach. Popcorn meant that she was in bed, in the dark, not cooking anything, and Meg and Scottie were left to their own devices…”
Cody carries the story and that’s OK. Her voice is so strong and it sticks with you long after you read it. Ben is spot-on as the romantic element though he doesn’t come off as unnecessary. He feels like a central part of the story. Alice, Stoner Richard, Scottie, the Garcias – Forman knows how to craft and create characters that fit in perfectly with her world.
Quality of Writing: 20/20
I devoured this book. It’s a compulsive read. I loved everything about this book but especially, that the sentences Forman strings together are quotable and memorable:
Forman anchors the reader in physical places like Tacoma, Washington but also manages to infuse them with personality and captures a communal atmosphere that it resonates with this reader
Comparative Literature: 10/10
When I first read the synopsis, I wondered if it was just another author jumping on the suicide bandwagon (much like what’s happened to dystopian fiction in recent years). But I was wrong. This is an emotional and striking story about the search for redemption. Cody is as strong (if not, a stronger,) narrator than John Green’s Hazel Grace in The Fault in Our Stars. The plot is a lot more sound too. It grips you and takes you on Cody’s rollercoaster journey in the way Jay Asher does in 13 Reasons Why. It goes beyond just being a story of suicide, instead looking at redemption, much in the way Cat Clarke’s Undone does, with revenge. I Was Here is poignant and tragic. It will make you laugh and possibly make you cry but one thing’s for sure, this story will stick with you. Having recently read If I Stay and Where She Went, this might be Forman’s best work; a sheer master class in storytelling. A must-read for 2015.
NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:
- Cody brings the story to life, building on the present and telling us about her past with a dry, sarcastic personality
- An expertly-woven world with a real sense of community
- A story with layers that does not focus solely on suicide and deals with this issue instead of dismissing it like so many other YA novels
Overall Score: 100/100
Books You May Also Like:
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher – a haunting story of a young girl’s suicide, told through tapes to the thirteen people that led her to her fate
If I Stay by Gayle Forman – a good read though it’s easier to gel with Cody as a narrator than with Mia
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – the story of a terminal, cancer patient and her newfound lease on life
Undone by Cat Clarke – a tragic story of a teenager’s suicide and his friend’s quest for vengeance against those who caused it