Title: I was Here
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: January 2015
‘Megan Luisa Garcia
I WAS HERE’
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 don’t want to lose you because of the fucked up way I found you.’
I was not expecting to like I Was Here. A friend of mine read it a while back and she wasn’t a fan but I have to admit, my opinion differed hugely on this book. I Was Here was an extremely emotional, intense read that had me hooked until the very end.
Cody and Meg told each other everything, but when Meg unexpectedly commits suicide, Cody calls into question how well she really knew her best friend. Travelling to Meg’s college town, Cody is thrown into an unknown world she’d never encountered with Meg before and the more she gets to know Meg’s old roommates and Ben, the guy who broke Meg’s heart, the more distance she feels from her best friend. Then, Cody discovers an encrypted computer files and makes it her mission to discover its contents.
‘She didn’t tell me that she found life to be so unbearably painful. I mean, I didn’t even have a clue.’
I am not going to lie, this is a sad book. In the opening scenes it is pretty clear how bitter, angry and raw Cody is. She is pissed off that her best friend left her without so much of a warning and is left to pick up the pieces on her own, for the first time. Cody distances herself from everybody and makes no effort to regain control of her life. I really liked Cody as a character. I thought she was a completely honest character and at no point was her experience ever romanticised. I loved that Forman stayed true to the issue at hand. Cody also came across as being incredible strong and it was refreshing to see a female protagonist who didn’t have to get into fights to show her strength.
This novel also included a lot of relationships which I was loving. I am known for complaining about the lack of friends and family in YA but I thought Forman really delivered with I Was Here. The strong friendship between Cody and Meg is prominent throughout. Cody’s bitterness shows how much she relied on Meg and her reluctance to make new friends reflects this. Meg’s old roommates also play a large role in Cody’s grief. They make a huge effort to help her through it even when she pushes them away and I really appreciated their role in I Was Here. Cody’s family is worth mentioning too, or lack of. Cody is from an extremely dysfunctional family. She has no idea who or where her dad is and her relationship with her mum is hugely strained. Cody plays the parent role and I was glad that Forman gave us an honest portrayal of family life. The last relationship I must mention is that between Cody and Ben, who is our love interest for this story. Ben is not your typical love interest. for much of the story I wasn’t even sure if anything would even develop between the two, but I think this was really important because it showed that this was a story about mental health, not love.
‘I failed her in life. But I won’t fail her in death.’
I cannot write a review for I Was Here without mentioning mental health and the D word. This is a novel about depression and I think its portrayal of mental health was done brilliantly. Of course this is not an original concept, but Forman is taking a step in the right direction by showing readers what it is really like to live with depression. There is no doubt that parts of this story were pretty twisted, but that all went with what Forman was trying to say about mental health. My favourite thing about this novel was Forman’s author’s note at the end. Forman educates and reminds us that although Meg is fictional, other people who suffer from mental health problems are not and I thought this was a really important end to the novel.
As you can probably tell, I was a big fan of this book. I devoured it in one day because I was so hooked to the protagonist. Cody was a key player in what made this book successful. Forman’s skill at portraying mental health can also not be ignored. This was an extremely emotional read (yes, there were actual tears), but it was also extremely educational.
‘It’s an act of bravery to feel your feelings.’