I Was Here || Gayle Forman || Contemporary || 288 pages || Viking Juvenile
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 received a free review copy from the publishers in exchange for my honest review.
Going into this book, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew this story was about a girl that was asked to pack her dead best friend’s things from her room and that it was about her dealing with the grief but I wasn’t sure what direction it would take as I couldn’t exactly imagine her packing up items into boxes for the entirety of the novel. However, I was a massive fan of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and although I knew that this would be quite a different story, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I’m glad to say I was hooked from the get-go.
This book has quite a fast pace which wasn’t something I expected because I always associate Gayle Forman with these emotional, slow burning stories. Although this book definitely tugged at my heartstrings and got me teary eyed at some points, it was also quite the page turner. The story of Cody had more of a goal, something to travel towards, and so the plot was pushing at the pace more than in If I Stay. I found myself flying through the novel to get to the end.
The romance is very in the background which I really liked. During some parts at the beginning, I thought: ‘This is it. They’re going to make out because they’re grieving emotional and the suicide is going to be romanticized.’ And that is not what happened. Their relationship is slow to grow and it kind of sneaked up one me. Not in the way that I don’t see it coming, but it the way that I don’t realise how much I was rooting for them until the story was over. The romance is not dramatic, but subtle and that is what makes it so refreshing.
I also really enjoyed the character of Cody. I found her voice to be very believable and I felt like I connected with her quickly. She’s very real in the sense that she’s not the richest and she has to work for what she wants but what made me really love her character was that she had her own struggles too. The book did a good job of illustrating that the earth doesn’t just stop spinning because someone important has been ripped away from you. Cody has her plate filled when Meg dies so it was nice to see that it’s just as much a story about Cody as it is about why Meg wanted to die.
However, I don’t believe this book was as amazing as If I Stay, partly because I don’t think the writing style wasn’t as beautiful. I was on the lookout for those gorgeous metaphors and fantastic phrases that would play on my mind for weeks and months and make me think about the book long after the last page. Although there were still in there, there weren’t nearly as many. I’m not sure if this is an unintentional side effect of having a more mature storyline or because the was more plot and events involved and so although, it did feel like a Gayle Forman novel, it felt slightly diluted compared to If I Stay.
RATING: [4/5] – I save my fifth star for my absolute favourites and I feel like this book was almost there, but not quite.
RECOMMEND TO: Fans of Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and anyone looking for a fast read that’s not entirely focused on the romance.