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I Belong

Early Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I Was HereTitleI Was Here

AuthorGayle Forman

GenreYA Contemporary

Series: N/A

Publication Date: January 27, 2015

Format: Hardcover, 288 Pages

ISBN-10: 0451471474 (Penguin Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-0451471475 (Penguin Teen)

Reviewed by: Kaitlin


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, and some secrets of his own. 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.

Quick & Dirty: Gayle Forman impressed me with her heart-wrenching story of loss, regret, and forgiveness.

Opening Sentence: The day after Meg died, I received this letter.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

Cody and Meg were best friends. They were as close as two people could be. But when Meg ends up dead in a hotel room, having swallowed a poison and commuted suicide, Cody did not see it coming. In I Was Here, Meg is suddenly gone from the world, and Cody is left to deal with the aftermath her passing creates. Not only does she find the boy that seems to have tipped Meg over the edge, she finds an encrypted file on her computer, something she meant to trash but didn’t work. When they discover what is in the file, things will change and truths will be revealed, but is Cody prepared?

The main character in I Was Here was Cody, which is an odd girl’s name, but fit all the same. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about her. I didn’t feel close or connected to her plight and she seemed sort of empty, detached. As the story went on, it got easier to feel engaged in her emotions and her walls went down. I began to enjoy her as a character, her very realistic flaws and strengths that made her seem more relatable. The story became better for me and closer to home. I was also impressed with how well I felt I knew Meg even though I never actually met her character. (You know, since she was dead). Through flashbacks and private jokes and history, Meg’s personality became clear. I missed her as much as Cody did and we grieved together.

Ben, hmm. At first I did not see him as a love interest, and I couldn’t really fathom how that would work out. He seemed too rough around the edges to end up with Cody, though apparently I was wrong. As I Was Here progressed he became warmer and easier to read, and I saw the chemistry that seemed to spark between the two. Something I am glad that Forman doesn’t do, I must say, is insta-love. When characters fall for each other at first sight, it can be cute, but it’s also annoying and unrealistic. The plot suddenly takes a drop into cheesiness. Though Cody did acknowledge Ben’s attractiveness she never even thought of betraying Meg until, well, she did. That was something else I liked, how even though Meg wasn’t around anymore, Cody stayed loyal to her. Something I will say about Cody and Ben was though they did seem to fit together, sometimes they would say things that came on super fast. I have a certain part in mind when I write this. However, though it was unexpected it was super duper cute and I smiled and squeeled a little.

And now the ultimate question: do I think Gayle Forman is as good as she was made out to be? Well, Gayle Forman is an amazing writer. No one can deny that. She can slip meaning into sentences that would have otherwise been irrevalent. She can make a dead girl seem entirely alive with memories and flashbacks. She can formulate characters so real that you just want to hug them and say, yes, it will be okay. Symbols were rich in this novel, as were hidden meanings and implications. This may be one of the most well-written contemporary I’ve ever read. However, is it my favorite? No, Anna and the French Kiss is, then The Fault in Our Stars, and here is why. I felt that when the most important scenes came up, the ones you want to sink in and the ones that make you feel the most emotional, they were somewhat rushed. Maybe not rushed, perhaps quick. When the whole book has led up to this explosive finale of the romance, or the forgiveness, or the realization, then I want a big focus on it. I want a huge spotlight that makes it seem like it lasts a longer time. For me, a few of the most valuable scenes felt very brief, though they were dense with meaning.

That being said, I really did enjoy this book. It was beautiful and sad and haunted me days after. It isn’t a five star because I felt like those important scenes had come short to my expectations, but don’t take that to mean it doesn’t deserve a read. I loved the characters, who were unique but relatable and had realistic problems like money. I love the cover the contrast of the yellow over that beautiful landscape scene and a girl with windblown hair. I loved Forman’s play on the aftermath of suicide, the way it breaks people. But I also loved that she showed that healing is possible. That forgiveness is. In the end, though this is an extremely sad story, I think its main message is that we can let go, we can forgive. From Allegiant: “We can heal each other.” That summed up the book pretty well in my opinion. I hadn’t previously read If I Stay or Just One Day before opening up this one, but as I’d heard such amazing things, I had high expectations. Gayle Forman, for the most part, fulfilled my expectations. I have the highest respect for her books and writing. If you get the chance, you should check out I Was Here!

Notable Scene:

“Meg Garcia,” I repeat. It’s had to look in his eyes now, but in the last month, I’ve become an expert at hard things. “Know her?”

“Who are you?” His eyes are burning with something, a kind of fury, and they make the irises icy. They don’t seem like contacts anymore.

“Or did you just screw her, and screw her over?”


FTC AdvisoryPenguinTeen provided me with a copy of I Was Here in a giveaway. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.


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