Saturday, March 28, 2015

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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've read most of Gayle Forman's books, so I was very excited to receive an advanced copy of I Was Here. I had heard some mixed things from other friends who had read it early, so I went into the reading with an interesting mix of eagerness and trepidation.

The tone of I Was Here is certainly a big departure from Forman's other books. It's not quite as beautifully poignant as If I Stay, and not quite as romantic as Just One Day. Not to say those things don't exist in this book, but the general feeling of the book is much darker (as it should be while dealing with such themes).

I'll be perfectly honest, I have mixed feelings about I Was Here. There were parts that made me feel deeply uncomfortable to read, but I also thought the book tied together really well and I liked the ending. I felt anxiety during my reading experience. There have been very few times when I wished I could reach into the pages of a book and protect the character--this was one of those times. Watching Meg delve deeper and deeper into things it was obvious would take her to a dark place was unnerving.

On a different note, I liked and appreciated the way depression was dealt with. The stigma of the disease was addressed without being added to, and at the same time the reality of what the disease can do to a person and a family was incredibly realistic. Depression isn't an easy topic to write about, and the fact that it was handled with care and respect was one of the highlights for me.

I mentioned the ending earlier, and I'll talk about it a little here. I think it was my favorite part of the book. It was bittersweet, with just the right amount of hope mixed in. After such heavy subject matter, it was good to have a hint at the light outside the tunnel. Plus, the ending makes me love the title of the book so much.

This isn't a cohesive review, but like I said--mixed feelings. I have a sense that this book's audience will be sharply divided. If you've read the book, tell me your feelings down in the comments!

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