I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Publisher: Viking Juvinile
Source: eARC provided by Edelweiss
Goodreads link: (click here)
What's it about?
Cody and Meg have been best friends since childhood. They are two halves of one whole. As far as Cody is concerned, she believes that Meg is the "better half". Before graduating from High School they made such grand plans to get out of their small town, live together in the city and go to college. Meg was the only one to do this though. Cody was left behind in her tiny house with her mostly absent single mother, who insists Cody call her Tricia instead of Mom. She barely attends Community College and earns her money cleaning houses. Meg, on the other hand, moved on to Tacoma to attend University of the Cascades, a prestigious private college where she got a fancy scholorship, while she hung out with cool people in cool clubs living a cool life. Cody, of course, resented her and began to distance herself from Meg. Cody thought that Meg left her behind. She had no idea how far behind until the day she got a time-delayed email from Meg...telling her that she had ended her own life.
Now, Cody is truly alone.
How could Meg have done this? Meg had it all. She had parents who adored her (and even treated Cody as their own) and a little brother who loved her more than anything. She was popular, full of life, smart, pretty and everyone liked her. How could this have happened? Cody can't believe that as her best friend, she missed any signs that led up to Meg's suicide, but in the past few months she wasn't 100 percent there for her. But still, Meg had it all and this seemed so out of character for her. It wasn't that long ago that they emailed each other and Meg seemed fine, but was she really? What could have happened? Cody is full of questions and determined to find answers.
When Cody makes a trip to Tacoma to collect Meg's belongings from her house there, she finds out that there was a lot about Meg's life that she kept from her. She meets her roommates and runs into "Tragic Guitar Hero", Ben McCallister, they guy who broke Meg's heart. Cody also discovers something strange on Meg's computer. There is an encrypted file and it seems that large chunks of her email are deleted. Cody believes that this may be connected to Meg's death. That, plus a strange phrase in her suicide note leads her to believe that someone else may have been involved. Maybe Meg was pushed into it.
Cody becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about the events that led up to Meg drinking a cup of industrial strength poison in a run-down hotel room. With the help of Meg's roommates and Ben McCallister, who she's begrudgingly developing feelings for, Cody slowly unravels the mystery. Along the way she will discover more about herself as she finds ways to deal with the incredible, soul-crushing grief of losing her best friend.
All in all, this was a very good book that I enjoyed reading. I would highly recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction and for Gayle Forman fans, it is a must read. It does return to the emotional tone of If I Stay, but without the tears. I wasn't quite as emotionally connected to Cody as I was to Mia from If I Stay, mostly because Cody's attitude was quite flippant at times, but I do understand why. Her life was a mess, she just lost her best friend and is looking for reasons why it happened. She is absolutely obsessed with finding the person responsible and at the same time she's blaming herself. In the end, she has to understand that sometimes it's not anyone's fault. A lot of time was spent investigating the mystery behind Meg's death, and I liked this part. I fell into Cody's extreme compulsion to smoke out a "bad guy" and get a definitive answer for WHY Meg took her own life, Gayle Forman did do a wonderful job making you feel her obsession. I became a little obsessed.
Cody did a lot on her own and didn't consult with any adults (Meg's parents or her Mother) or law enforcement, which was kind of stupid and could have saved her a lot of time and been less dangerous. But, if she hadn't taken it all on herself, she wouldn't have been able to learn the lessons she did. Her methods were very risky, I mean, I definitely do not advise going after a person you believe had a hand in the death of another person by yourself. Go to the police with any information you have!! Even if you do have a friend with you, the world is full of scary people and nothing is worth possibly losing your own life!
This is a very different book that takes on a tough subject. Gayle herself said that this is a suicide book that's not about suicide, which is sort of true. It's about loss, family, forgiveness and finding (and accepting) love in unexpected places. I did like Ben, but the romance wasn't as strong in I Was Here as it was in Forman's other books, but I think this was less about romance than it was about other things. There is definitely quite a bit of information and talk about suicide, especially when Cody stumbles upon the suicide help message boards Meg was frequenting. These boards weren't meant to support or to talk people out of killing themselves, they were meant to help people take the final plunge, which is pretty disturbing. While I was reading it, I wondered why nobody saw what was happening to Meg before she took her own life, but then I realized that people did. She seemed to have it all on the outside, but there was something wrong on the inside. The lasting message of this book is that we all impact the world in some way and we have to always remember this. Remember that we were here.
You know, I didn't cry until just now. Because...