Book Talk: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

Book Talk: I Was Here by Gayle FormanI Was Here by Gayle Forman
Published by Viking Juvenile on January 27, 2015
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: If I Stay, Where She Went, Just One Day, Just One Year, Just One Night
Format: ARC
Source: For Review
Amazon/Twitter
Goodreads

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!

 

 

 

Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”

 

A1
Cody’s best friend, who has been away at college, commits suicide. When she goes to clean out Meg’s room at college, she meets her roommates and realizes that there was a lot Meg hadn’t been telling her when she was away for college — a boy who broke her heart and an encrypted computer file that makes her question Meg’s suicide. As she tries to reconcile the Meg she’s learning about, she also pursues the things she finds in the file to find out what really happened to Meg.

a2*wipes away a tear*

a4If you know me, you know Gayle Forman is one of my favorite authors. If I Stay/Where She Went broke my feels and left me with characters I will NEVER forget. Just One Day changed my life, literally. (Loved Just One Year as well). So whenever Gayle has a new book out it’s kind of scary because there is always the potential NOT to love a favorite author’s book (I will need to a bottle of wine and cake to cope if the day ever comes I don’t love a Gayle book). Her books possess top spots in my heart and on my shelf so obviously going into I Was Here I had some MIGHTY high expectations.

But this right here is what I love about Gayle Forman’s books! They are all so different and yet emotionally they poke and prod into depths of the heart and the soul not always explored and always leave me thinking all these very life-examining thoughts and questions. I Was Here was this same experience. And to be completely honest, I Was Here was a book that kept having this residual affect on me the further and further away I got from reading it. I read it in the beginning of AUGUST of last year and I’m still finding new dimensions to it and having new epiphanies about it randomly that make me appreciate it more. That says a lot to me.

 The plot definitely was one that I knew emotionally was going to be hard as I lost a friend (not a best friend but still a friend) to suicide and it’s such an intense, confusing thing as a human to understand.

I think, by nature, suicide is one of those things that makes you examine someone you love. Cody was already feeling the strain of them living these separate lives after Meg left for college and then she begins to find out so many things about her when she talked to her roommates and cleaned out her room. This  added all these dimensions to Meg. Then there’s  the suicide and all those “WHYS” and “what could I have missed/did I not see” made Cody unsure of everything she thought she knew about Meg and the picture of her becomes so blurred.

I think Gayle wrote that raw confusion very well as Cody tried to reconcile her best friend Meg with the Meg she’s learning about. I could FEEL that as a reader, which in some ways made me feel like I didn’t understand Meg so much or connect to her, but I realized it’s because THAT is exactly how Cody is feeling. So many complicated THINGS are being added to the person of Meg that make her feel like she’s seeing her for the first time — she’s exploring all these nooks and crannies she never was aware of. Things that she’ll never be able to see for herself or hear from Meg’s mouth. You can feel the barest and most raw emotions in Cody — anger, numbness, resentment, guilt, confusion, sadness. I felt that gamete of emotions after my friend committed suicide and so I really understood the disorienting head space Cody was in. I think sometimes she feels a little detached from it all because it doesn’t feel real nor like the Meg she knows but at the same time her emotions are driving her in an intense way. I think we get an interesting picture of a friendship, maybe not the one I expected to see explored, but ultimately one that felt very real and raw after something like this.

The majority of the plot hinges on Cody pursuing the things she finds that makes her question everything about Meg’s suicide. It’s one of those DANGER DANGER DANGER moments as the reader because you know it’s not a good idea as she proceeds. But this is what I LOVED about this book!! There’s this deep drive as humans to UNDERSTAND when things like this happen. To find answers. To make sense of it. To know what could have helped. We like order and things that we can wrap our mind around.  Someone to blame. I grieved very closely with the mom and dad of my friend as they were family friends and I’ve seen this desire very intensely in them even years later. Cody wanted to make sense of things and she latched on to this uneasy feeling she had to pursue answers that maybe would make more sense to her. That could make this easier as she grieved and tried to make sense of the fact that her best friend was gone. I think for me, being able to slip in Cody’s head space so easily, made me understand this desire for closure no matter how reckless it seemed.

The romance in I Was Here takes a back seat to the plot and Cody’s grieving and I think it was better that way. When they do start to have a connection, there’s this “hmmm” feeling I had because it’s a little more challenging of a pairing than Mia/Adam and Allyson/Willem in her previous books. Ben had history with Meg so it’s this strange feeling and you can FEEL that Cody and Ben both feel that at first. I think Ben was pretty hot and intriguing in true Gayle Forman boy-writing fashion but their romance was different for me. I think that’s maybe because we only get to see the challenging start of it and both of them are in very confusing, grief-laden places. I think I wanted more to understand their connection in a deeper way but I think that’s where they are at in the story — a very confusing, trying-to-figure-it-all-out place and all they know is that there is this shared and messy connection between them that they would have never expected. I thought more about it weeks after I finished and started to understand it more though I tend to go for the more sweeping romances myself (ie. her other two) and I think even MORE of the romance would have been a disservice to the heart of this book.

 

a6RATING-loved-it

factors+ writing, the depth of Cody’s character, plot, emotional impact
the romance wasn’t as strong (but I also think it was kind of perfect). I’m still challenged by it.

Re-readability: YES! I NEED to read it again. It’s impacted me so much more in the months since I’ve read it and I just NEED another read because there’s always so much to glean and think about in Gayle’s novels.
Would I buy a copy for my collection? Oh I plan on it!!

a5Gayle Forman fans, fans of books that tackle the intricacies of grief, contemporary YA fans that don’t mind something a little dark (but not overwhelmingly so)

a8This is why Gayle Forman is a favorite of mine. This was quintessential Gayle Forman in that she managed to do something so completely different than everything else she’s written but in that same signature Gayle Forman way — an overload of feels, incredibly layered characters, brilliant and compelling writing and an emotional story that just hits ya hard. This one was heavy but oh so good!! It was heartbreaking but made me think a lot about LIFE. Is this my favorite Gayle Forman novel? No, but how can you compete with a book that literally changed your life like Just One Day did for me?

review-on-post-itI was Here by gayle forman

 

a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless!!
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
* How did you feel about the romance in this one?

 


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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. I am beyond excited for this book. Gayle Forman is one of my favorite favorite writers and like you, I absolutely loved all her previous books. Now this does sound very different but I can’t wait to see what it’s going to be like. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • It’s definitely her most challenging one yet and I loved it! Hope you feel the same and I hope you’ll let me know regardless! Love hearing other opinions!

  2. Thanks for the honest review, Jamie – you know my love of Gayle and I’ve been waiting so hard for this book. The reaction you had – where you loved it more as you distanced yourself from it – is the same reaction I had when I first read If I Stay – I liked it, but it wasn’t one of my top 20 books until I read the second time several years later. This one sounds even more complex – I’m looking forward to it, but I’m still filled with a bit of trepidation because I didn’t really love Just One Year, but Just One Day was life-changing for me as well, so…augh!

  3. I’m really excited to pick this one up. I have loved all of Gayle Forman’s other books, so I’m glad to see this one lives up to the others! Great review 🙂

  4. What a great review! I have read all of Forman’s past books except Just One Year and really enjoyed them. This sounds like another must-read for sure. She is actually coming to the local teen book festival in my town this May and I’m hoping to read beforehand and get it signed…fingers crossed!

    I am actually a bigger fan of books that keep the romance aspects as background noise, rather than the forefront of the story, so I think this one will work well for me. However, the romance in Forman’s other novels hasn’t been cheesy or overdone, even when it does take center stage, so I’m not sure how it will resound with me this time around.

  5. Forman excels at writing emotion – she really knows how to get that across and make her readers FEEL things. Glad that this story didn’t disappoint, and that it didn’t become overwhelmingly dark (I was a bit worried about that). Also glad to hear the romance takes a back seat, it sounds like there’s enough going on that it’s not fully needed.

    Lovely review 🙂

  6. I watched the If I Stay movie yesterday and cried my eyes out. That was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I was even tempted to write a movie review, which I’ve never done. I have not read any of Gayle Forman’s books, but I was glad to read your review today. I’m on a mission to get my hand on a ARC! Thanks for sharing.

  7. I’m sorry that you lost your friend Jamie, that must’ve been really tough! <3 I generally shy away from books dealing with grief because I don't like books that are too upsetting but I LOVE Gayle Forman so, naturally, I'll have to give it a go! I read Where She Went yesterday and oh my gosh – it was so amazing. Absolutely brilliant review! x

  8. Love Foreman. This definitely sounds like an interesting and thought-provoking read. This is going on my TBR list for sure.

  9. You have made me so anxious to start reading this one now. I have too many books to read!!!!

  10. I am a huge Gayle Forman fan, too, and have been eagerly anticipating this book! Glad it doesn’t disappoint!

  11. hmmm maybe I need to re-read this? I liked it but I wasn’t WOWED by it. Like you said though, it’s hard to top Just One Day in terms of life-changingness.

  12. I loved If I Stay so I really look forward to reading this. Great review!

  13. I’m really looking forward to reading I Was Here! I’m a big Gayle Forman fan, having read all of her previous novels and loving most of them (the only exception being Sisters of Sanity, which I did really like but didn’t loooove). I can’t wait to see how she tells this story, particularly one that has such a heavy, emotional angle to it. Glad to hear that you really liked it, Jamie, and that it made you think a lot!

    • It definitely isn’t my FAVORITE of hers because IIS/WSW & JOD/JOY were like OMG FAVORITES EVER. But I definitely loved this one though I know it has divided a LOT of people. Will be SUPER curious to know what you think about it!! Been interesting to see all the perspectives of how it has moved and NOT moved people.

  14. I finally finished and got my review/letter to Gayle up (I couldn’t even write a review, I was just a bunch of feels). For me, Just One Day is still my perfect Gayle book, but this one is so wise and so challenging and Cody’s actions are exactly what I think I would do, so it’s still pretty high up there on my charts. I think I appreciate so much that Gayle never takes the easy way out when she writes a book. I think most writers would have written from Meg’s perspective, not Cody’s. But Gayle took up the challenge of portraying grief, and I felt like she did it in such a realistic fashion that I couldn’t help but love this book. I am also so grateful that she’s shining a light on mental illness.

    I liked the romance, but I admit to not finding Ben quite as swoony as Adam or Willem. But to me, it didn’t really matter because this book was all about Cody and Meg anyway. =p

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