"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies...The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R Martin

24 January 2015

I Was Here - Gayle Forman REVIEW

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 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.

My Review of I WAS HERE: 

Wow. What a powerful read. Seriously, I WAS HERE was such a thought-provoking, heartfelt read that was bursting with depth and emotion. It deals with such a hard-hitting, subject in a moving and poignant way that really tugs on the heartstrings and messes all your emotions up inside. Reading this book my emotions ranged from sadness to anger to sympathy and disgust. Gayle Forman is the queen of writing books that are roller coaster rides of emotion and I WAS HERE was no exception. Once I'd got on that roller coaster I just didn't want to get off no matter how sad or outraged it made me. I was glued to its pages, like Cody, hungry for answers, the not knowing what truly happened eating away at me.

Gayle Forman writes about tough and painful subject matters in such a sensitive and realistic way. This book discusses what happens to those left behind after such tragic and distressing events. It shows how everyone deals with grief in different ways; how traumatic events can break a person or spur them on looking for answers, or in Cody's instance; revenge. It really emphasises the importance of living life to the full, of seizing the day and making the most of the time that is given you. It also discusses some rather poisonous and sinister things that really did make my blood boil. Reading about such things is one thing but the thought of such disgusting things existing is enough to make you sick with anger and worry. It also delves into the suffering of those with mental illnesses, painting a clear and powerful picture. It really made me think as a reader about the subject matter that I was reading about. Forman's language is just so full of depth and feeling that it's easy to get caught up in the story, in the emotional turmoil of it all. There was so much more to this story than just suicide. It of course dealt with loss and grief but also love, friendship and family; the importance of being connected to others, of forgiveness and understanding. The ending, in my opinion, was perfect. It was a fitting end to the story, uplifting and sweet and it provided closure to such a heart wrenching and suspense filled story.

Forman is an expert when it comes to characterisation. The characters in I WAS HERE are flawed and realistic dealing with real life issues, feeling a depth of real emotions. The sympathy that you feel for Meg's parents and Cody, her best friend is immense. Their world as they know it has become fragmented, shattering all around them. Cody is determined to piece those fragments back together, to find out why her best friend - the one person that she thought she knew even better than herself - chose to end her life - and why she didn't confide in her. She begins a journey of discovery; of discovering the truth, finding answers to why this happened and also a journey of self-discovery, of discovering that she's her own person, free to live her own life. Her growth throughout this book is superb. Throughout the story you're given a very realistic view of Cody's character. Her emotions are so raw, so real that you feel every inch of her pain, her suffocating guilt and her raging anger. She discovers an entire world that she wasn't a part of, a world where Meg had forged her own way into, leaving Cody behind. It shows that you don't really know a person all that well no matter how close you are. She's losther best friend in the world, her anchor and is now drifting through life without her. You feel Cody's guilt as it seeped through the pages, guilt at not being there for her friend during such a difficult time of her life. She's also angry, angry with herself, angry with Meg and angry with the world for carrying on without her best friend. Her guilt and anger leads her in a search for answers, a search for vengeance. She becomes consumed with Megs suicide and the events leading up to it, refusing to just forget, refusing to put it behind her. She's fuelled by determination and a touch of obsession. She digs deeper and deeper unearthing sinister and twisted things. This element of the story was so shocking and really added a layer of suspense and tension to the story.
Now the romance subplot didn't seem to irk me as it did some readers. Yes, it was undoubtedly a bit of a cliché, bad boy rocker falls for the innocent, naïve girl. It's been done a thousand times before but despite this I really enjoyed it. I thought it added a layer of romance and realism to a strained and sad story. This is Cody's story, detailing her life and her attempts at moving on and finding closure. I thought Cody and ben's blossoming relationship reflected this moving forward aspect, perfectly. I liked Ben's character. He seemed genuine; a bit of a bad boy but helpful and compassionate too. He offered Cody the perfect shoulder to cry on, a strong person for her to lean on. And vice versa. Cody and Ben helped one another grieve and move forward as the story progressed. Another relationship that I also enjoyed reading about was the one between Cody and her mother. It just developed so naturally and realistically as the story progressed. Seeing them come to understand one another and grow closer was just moving to read about.

So yes, I WAS HERE concerns suicide and mental illness in a rather graphic and realistic way but ultimately I felt that this book is about forgiveness, friendship, hope, family and love. That even though it's about the end of a life it's no doubt a life affirming story. That no matter what there is hope in the darkness, a light at the end of all bad things. It makes you want to scream "I WAS HERE" out into the universe, to put your mark on the world like Meg. If you want a book that packs an emotional punch with an added air of mystery and suspense then this is the book for you.

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