Wednesday, February 25, 2015

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': I Was Here

Name: I Was Here
Author: Gayle Forman
find it on goodreads
barnes & noble 

synopsis: Cody and Meg were inseparable.
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.

Full, non-spoilery review under the cut! 

Let me start this out by saying how much I love Gayle Forman. None of her books are very long, but she doesn't need a lot of pages to craft a masterful story. This is the third Forman book that I've read, and none of them have taken me more than a day to get through, but they have all stuck with me long after finishing them. Gayle Forman handles tragedy exceptionally well, and I think her writing is so important for everyone, but especially people who have maybe been through the things she is writing about, and are looking for hope. 

I Was Here is the story of Cody, and it is also the story of Meg. But since Meg spends the entire story being dead, we see everything from Cody's perspective. I am forever amazed by Gayle Forman's ability to characterize people who are dead for the majority of the story. (she does this amazingly well with If I Stay also.) Cody and Meg are lifelong best friends who have recently been separated for the first time when Meg goes off to college. They seem to be drifting a little apart, mostly due to discomfort and resentment on Cody's part, who wishes she wasn't stuck in their hometown with her seemingly disinterested mother.  
Then Meg kills herself. She sends an email on a timer to her parents and to Cody, and then drinks a bottle of industrial strength cleaner. Cody's world is torn apart. For Cody, it wasn't just that Meg was her best friend, it was that Meg's family did a lot to raise her alongside their own daughter. Meg's family was Cody's family. So when they ask her to go clean out Meg's apartment at school, Cody can't do anything but say yes. However, when she gets there, she finds that there is a lot she didn't know about this new Meg, including a playboy rockstar, two kittens, and an encrypted file on Meg's computer. What happens next is kind of spoilery, but it takes a pretty dark and interesting turn, and Cody does a lot of finding herself, as well as finding Meg. 

There were a lot of things I loved about this story, which, admittedly, was a little hard for me to read. It made me think about my lifelong best friend, and the fact that we've just been separated for the first time, to go to different universities. I think this story will hit very close to home for a lot of people, and it definitely made me call my best friend to tell her how much I love her. I Was Here allowed me to feel the story firsthand.  

I loved the way Cody's relationship with her mother progressed. Though it started out with Cody resenting her mother for seeming disinterested in her life, they ended up patching things up a bit. I think it was important for Cody to realize that, even though she thought Meg had the perfect family, that didn't do her any good in the end. Cody comes to appreciate her own life a lot more through the death of her friend. 
Though the romance in this story is a bit clich├ęd, I still was in love with it by the end of the story. I think, above all, this book is one about learning to accept yourself and others, and that's what the romance ultimately made Cody do. 

I definitely recommend this as a quick read for people who don't mind reading things that are a little sad and a little dark, but in the end are redeemable.  Solid four stars! 


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