Release Date - January 27, 2015
Publisher Website - Penguin
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 288 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received in exchange for an honest review**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Cody and Meg were inseparable.There is a reason Gayle Forman makes use of the "All.The.Feels" tagline. Her books deliver just that. All of the feelings you can imagine, and often all of them are experienced all at once. I Was Here is no exception to this. It is a brilliant, important, satisfying read that left me emotionally drained, and surprisingly hopeful.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
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.
Gayle Forman makes writing appear effortless. Her words come together in such a cohesive, natural way. This talent, however, is the mark of a great writer, and hard work. She makes something so layered and nuanced look easy. She is able to create emotions, and atmosphere with a simple turn of phrase. It's not just enjoyable to read, but inspiring.
Anger and guilt are felt through every interaction, every scene, every sentence of this novel. There is so much anger and guilt for everyone involved. There is anger and guilt because of that anger. Gayle Forman captures what it could feel like to be a 'survivor of suicide'. By this, I am referring to those left behind. There is, often, a massive need for blame for those left behind. Gayle captures the feeling of being angry at the person who died, but feeling guilty that you are angry and so you want to take that anger and shove it onto someone else. You want to blame someone else. They perhaps feel like they should have known and are partially blaming themselves deep down. It creates this perfect storm of feelings. All of this swirls around inside these characters reeking havoc on their emotions and choices. The 'what ifs' plague every single person in Meg's life and it's heartbreaking to see them go through the steps needed to mourn and grieve.
Ben McAllister is a pretty eyed, guitar playing, sneering mess and you will absolutely love him. He is the stuff of book boyfriend dreams and is entirely swoon worthy. His connection to Meg allows for this bond to form with Cody that is entirely mesmerizing. He is wrestling with his own demons, and it makes the progression of the relationship with Cody all the more fulfilling. They understand each other, and offer something that the other needs. The romance aspect of the novel is classic Gayle Forman in all it's messy imperfect perfectness.
Meg comes to life through the other characters. She is told in memories and stories. She burns so vivid and bright during these moments that you truly get to know her. She feels like a vital part of the novel and not just created for plot advancement. She is a fully fledged character and her relationship with Cody is nuanced and rich. We see all the elements of their friendship, including the not so perfect parts. It's this type of characterization that Gayle Forman excels at and she does not disappoint here.
The mystery element of the computer file is just icing on an already delicious cake. It serves to showcase the true plot of the story which is not this mystery but the human emotions behind grief, forgiveness, and strength. She manages to eloquently weave together all of these aspects into an engrossing story.
You won't leave Meg and Cody's story untouched and they'll haunt you long after you've finished reading the final page. This is one I am having a hard time moving on from. I want to mourn a little longer, fall a little bit more in love, and stay with these wonderful characters. A beautiful, sad, hopeful, messy story of grief, death, and most importantly, life. This novel will break your heart, it just happens to also mend it along the way.