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.
Cover Thoughts: I love how the girl looks like she’s traveling somewhere because it fits in with the “I Was Here” theme, but I don’t care for the font color. And I wish the picture had been taken just smidge to the left so the white on the gravel(?) didn’t show.
First Line: The day after Meg died, I received this letter:
The suicide was very well planned out. Meg seemed like one for detail then. The beginning sounds good, I wonder how this college trip is going to go, it could be really interesting.
I read and loved both If I Stay and Where She Went, so I had high hopes for I Was Here. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as into it as I wish I’d been. Whereas I found If I Stay full of emotion and character depth, I didn’t feel the same way towards I Was Here.
The plot summary is really fantastic.
I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Something I loved about I Was Here is how well thought out Meg planned her suicide, from sending letters to her family, Cody and the police department telling them how to handle her body, and writing the maid a note saying to call 911 and giving her a tip.
Meg seemed like a really interesting character, I liked the times when Cody did mention her, how she was, how she acted, but I couldn’t get the full affect of Meg. She seems like one of those larger than life people, sort of like Lilly Kane in Veronica Mars.
Cody’s never had the typical family. From the time she was four, she called her mother by her first name, Tricia, due to Tricia herself. Meg always turned to the Garcia’s for help and the missing family aspect to her life. I loved this. I like how close Cody was to Meg’s family, how she didn’t know where she fit in, if she fit in and how it sort of shattered the dynamic. Meg has a little brother named Scottie. He says one line in the beginning of I Was Here that really hit me emotionally,
“Yeah, she spared me.”
And Scottie’s just so sad about this because he and Cody are talking about Meg’s death. I thought this was a sign, I thought I’d be sad throughout the book. It was not a sign.
Cody’s A Reader:
I loved this aspect of Cody’s personality. She’s read classics like Pride and Prejudice and goes to the library regularly, before Meg’s death it was to check out books, afterwards, it was to use the internet.
Meg saved two kittens while she was alive! And I love kittens so this definitely made I Was Here a little, tiny bit better for me, because what kind of person saves kittens? A kind one!
It doesn’t sound as bad it sounds either. The ending got to me emotionally.
Unnecessary and predictable.
Of course the random, hot, rockstar guy named Ben, with a past with the best friend is going to be the love interest.
Apparently musicians are the key to love and closure.
I saw it coming, I knew it was coming, but still I have to ask myself….Why? The romance was unnecessary. Cody doesn’t like Ben for hurting Meg, Ben thinks Cody doesn’t know what happened, and I think it’s a waste of time. I couldn’t buy their love or relationship. It was too rushed, too fake, too empty and it seemed like the two characters were together because of their shared grief over Meg. Ben for….screwing and then leaving her and Cody for not knowing what her best friend felt until it was too late.
I hated how there wasn’t a flashback for this though. Everything was told. Ben TOLD Cody what happened, why couldn’t Ben have gone into detail? Or Forman have gone into detail for the readers? 🙁 It was disappointing. Ben and Meg’s relationship was really hard to understand. Apparently he’d slept with her, but it was a mistake, and she emails him and he doesn’t like it and….
Yeah, I don’t care. The connection they (Cody and Ben) shared wasn’t believable. I mean, I’ll believe it because I saw parts of it, but I wasn’t really able to believe how things changed so rapidly between the two. One night, Cody wants to like, rip his head off and a week or two later they’re kissing? Gah. v.v
When Cody’s best friend, Meg kills herself, Cody’s entire world is left crumbled.
Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
I didn’t feel this inseparable connect between Cody and Meg though. I know and completely understand that Cody was sad, but I just didn’t get this friendship before them. I couldn’t get a grasp on Cody and Meg’s friendship at all. There were no flashbacks of the two together, readers are just told they were “so close” and “best friends”. I didn’t get the feeling they were best friends though. At all. It would have been nice to see some of their shared moments together. I don’t want to be told they’re best friends, I want to SEE their friendship. I don’t want to read about how Cody didn’t talk to Meg anymore, I want to HEAR about how she waited for emails from her and never got one. I still wish there had been flashbacks or memories or anything from Cody’s point of view to show who Meg was.
Edit: I did list Meg in the “good” section and that’s because she did seem like this larger than life person, I just wasn’t completely into it. Although she did sound really good.
An example of this is Love Letters To The Dead, in which the main character, Laurel paints her sister, May so vividly, that she actually outshines her. I feel Meg should have been like this, that although I Was Here was Cody’s story (of sorts), that there should have been an amount of depth to Meg’s character. Instead Meg just…didn’t mean anything to me. I feel horrible for saying that because this is a book that deals with suicide and Meg did commit suicide, but I had zero connection to Meg at all.
Correction: I had zero connection to the friendship. I listed Meg in the “good” section, because there was a bit of mentioning her, which I did enjoy, but that was all “telling” more than showing. Even with the kittens, we’re “told” Meg saved them. We aren’t shown how, which makes sense, this takes place after Meg’s suicide.
I think I Was Here definitely could have benefitted from having flashbacks to make me care about Cody and Meg’s friendship. As it is, I found it extremely hard to care.
Maybe this was done on purpose though, maybe this was to show how Meg and Cody had drifted apart in friendship. I still wish there had been some sort of proof of this friendship. I don’t understand why Meg didn’t email Cody. I mean, I CAN understand why she didn’t, given what we learn later in the book, I just don’t get why she didn’t talk to her.
Lack of Feels (Mostly that of Sadness)
I Was Here wasn’t as emotional as I thought it would be. After being blown away from If I Stay, I had high hopes for I Was Here, especially given that it involved friendship and suicide. I thought I would be swept away into a sea of pain, drowning in my own tears…. But that didn’t happen. At all.
I could understand Cody’s grief, she’d lost her best friend, that would hurt anyone. I found Cody to be kind of likable, she was rough around the edges, a bit bitter and had a bit of an attitude at times, that was all understandable though. I didn’t like how she initially treated Ben, but still, understandable given she didn’t know the full details. I get why she was angry, she wanted someone to blame and even blamed herself.
I felt bad for how she felt regarding Meg’s feelings and how she didn’t know. Cody as a narrator could have been more interesting, if there was just more of a connection there, which I didn’t feel with her. I felt bad for her, but I didn’t feel connected enough to her to really….feel bad with her.
I loved how after she found out what was on the encrypted file, she started thinking more about herself and exploring. I thought it was really interesting seeing where that led and I feel it could have gone a little further than it did. It still felt a little empty though.
Meg’s Roommates/College People:
I really liked Meg’s roommates, if only for the fact they had such different personalities. There’s Stoner Richard who’s actually a Christian and Alice, who drinks fair trade coffee.It would have been interesting to hear about Meg’s interactions with them other than one example.
There’s also Harry, I have to say, I do love a good computer/tech genius with hacking capabilities or knowledge of flaws in computers.
Besides them, Meg also hung out at clubs with various people. This really interested me but beyond a couple stops, it doesn’t really go anywhere.
When we meet Cody, we learn her mother is Tricia and her father basically walked out on the family. I would have loved to see more about Tricia. Due to the way she was and acted, I can definitely see how/where Cody may have gotten her attitude from. There’s a side-plot in I Was Here involving Cody’s dead, it seemed a little random and out of place.
The mystery in I Was Here isn’t a mystery like “Did Meg really kill herself?” because it’s quite clear she did, it’s more like, “did Meg work alone to kill herself”, but not in the euthanasia way either. I thought the mystery definitely had promise. I was interested in it. I wanted to see where it would go. It was definitely the only thing keeping Cody going at times, which was understandable and I liked that. I liked that Cody needed something to keep her going. I thought where the mystery led Cody was really interesting, it was unique, something I hadn’t read before and could’ve brought a new depth to I Was Here had t been handled in a different way. I will say though, for what the mystery was though, it was good, I liked it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like how Cody dealt with the mystery. Cody definitely did some very questionable and very dangerous things that I would never do. Then again, when someone you love has died, it’s hard to tell what you would do to get a little bit of closure.
There is a reveal in I Was Here, this reveal did make me rather sad, but I believe there would have been a bigger impact if I’d gotten a glimpse of it beforehand. Given what it is though, I see why I didn’t.
Writing this review has caused great distress. I liked I Was Here, the mystery was worth reading for, the family aspect was great and I liked Forman’s writing style. I wasn’t crazy about the execution, I lacked a connection with the characters, the friendship fell short, but the beginning and ending were nice. I loved what Forman was trying to do, write this amazing, meaningful, compelling story about friendship and grief, I just wasn’t invested in it. I can’t say I would recommend I Was Here as there were more cons than pros. For met at least.
This doesn’t however turn me off Forman’s future books so I’ll be checking out any future ones she may come out with.
5 responses to “ARC Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman”
You review is pretty consistent with most of what I’ve heard about this book (especially regarding the love interest and the lack of connection readers feel between Meg and Cody). I’ve never read anything by Forman but I already have this on hold at the library, because I still want to see how she handles the topic of suicide. Hopefully it doesn’t put me off on her writing!
The love interest drove me insane. 🙁 I hope you like it better than I did. It’s not all bad, it’s really not. I just feel the little slivers of goodness in it, weren’t enough to overcome the not so goodness.
Ugh, unfortunately, this is about what I’ve been hearing from everyone about this one. Sad, because the subject had the potential to be REALLY moving, especially since suicide is really on the bookish radar lately, and this book is from the perspective of the aftermath. I probably will read it at some point, but I am not rushing out to get it. Great review 🙂
Yeah, I’ve read a couple of those reviews myself. 🙁 It’s really sad because I was so looking forward to this. After reading If I Stay and Where She Went (though not Just One Year/Day/Night because those ones didn’t sound too interesting), I was completely sold on I Was Here. It could have been so powerful and so amazing. Suicide is definitely getting a spotlight this year. I loved how this was dealing with the aftermath, it’s a change from a few other books involving suicide. Thanks Shannon. 🙂
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