I Was Here is my third Gayle Forman read.
(I binge read 3 of her books in a week!) I have to say this one completely disappointed me. Noooo! I went in with high expectations because If I Stay and Where She Went are both beautiful and musical and hilarious books. But I Was Here? Not for me.
The plot line is firstly a) extremely slow, b) lots and lots of telling not showing including sleepy details about when Cody ate/slept/didn’t-eat/didn’t-sleep and alright already I got it, and c) about stalking. I personally feel it condoned stalking and…no.
So our narrator, Cody, has a best friend (Meg) who unexpectedly and devastatingly kills herself.
The book starts with this. Meg is already dead. Cody is looking for closure. (Since there were no signs or indications that Meg was struggling.) It’s after highschool and Meg is at college, so I’d peg the book as New Adult.
The trouble with starting books where the All Important Character is already dead is: I don’t know Meg. ME. The reader! I have no idea who she is and the vague clues the book gave as the story unwound weren’t enough. I didn’t ever understand or know or care about Meg. Since I read zero interactions between Meg and Cody, I don’t even feel for their friendship. I hate it when books do this. I’m supposed to care out of empathy I guess? But I want proof. I want to be made to care.*
Like Anton Chekhov says, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” SHOW. DON’T TELL.
*In Forman’s previous book, If I Stay, this was done perfectly through live-back-flashes. Sure the book starts off with a car accident that kills the narrator’s family, but the humorous back-flashes and scenes of loving family life made me fall absolutely in love with everyone. This was just soooo not the case in I Was Here.
The romance didn’t work for me.
Cody finds Ben (who was Meg’s friend/one-night-stand) to help her solve what really happened to Meg. Apparently Ben is a jerk. I mean, Cody says so. But, um…no proof. He seemed perfectly civil in every single chapter. Cody is an Ice Queen and regular snark fish to him…and Ben totally takes it. Ouch.
I just didn’t like Cody.
THIS IS A PROBLEM! She narrates the book! I get that she’s struggling with grief, but she had a gallows-humour and matter-of-fact way of dealing, like: “well, my best friend is dead and I hate going to freaking vigils”. I get that. I do. Everyone copes differently. Cody coped by dishing out indifference. But then with her being a regular jerk to EVERYONE, h-h-how was I supposed to care about her?
This next part is a rather large spoiler. But I don’t say everything and I don’t talk about the ending. I just say what happens in the middle…so READ AT OWN RISK.
I didn’t like this book.
I didn’t enjoy the writing (it felt bland and boring) and I didn’t love the characters (I connected to noooo one) and I didn’t love the topic (it freaks me out) and I didn’t love the way it was handled (stalking is not a good idea) and I didn’t love the romance (it was barely there and I feel like Cody 100% used Ben to distract herself from her loss). So this book and I? We’re not working out.
I love Gayle Forman’s previous books and I think she’s phenomenally talented in writing about raw, emotional topics. I was here and now I’m leaving. Like, forever.
Thank you Simon and Schuster on Netgalley for the E-ARC! I Was Here by Gayle Forman comes out on January 29th, 2015.
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.