I Was Here is a heart-wrenching and thought-provoking book, written by Gayle Forman.
When Cody learns that her best friend drank a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, she is both shocked and devastated. She and Meg were like two peas in a pod – inseparable until collage wrenched them apart. So how did Cody not know about this? But when Cody travels to Meg’s collage town to pack up her belongings, she learns that there’s a lot about Meg she never knew. When she finds out about who Meg’s roommates were, Ben McAllister, the boy who broke Meg’s heart, and an encrypted computer file, it throws everything about her best friend’s death into question.
I Was Here was definitely a really great book to read. It wasn’t a happy book – I’m just putting that out there now. There are a lot of parts in this book which are quite confronting and very saddening. I felt like this book is definitely a book that a lot of people should read though, because it tells the story of suicide that often goes untold. I learnt things about this topic that I never knew before and I definitely feel a lot more informed because of it. One of the biggest messages of this book is that when someone you know or someone you love commits suicide, it’s never your fault. That was a really important thing to understand because something similar, though not to this extent, has happened to me.
Late last year, one of my friends told me that they were going to commit suicide and when I heard that from them, I felt as though I had failed as a friend. I though that it was somehow my fault and I hated myself for not seeing that they were struggling sooner. But like Cody in this book, I didn’t have any idea that my friend was ever contemplating this. Though Cody’s story was different to mine, thank goodness. I was able to change my friend’s mind about committing suicide, but it still greatly affected me. The way I broke down into tears couldn’t stop shaking, begging them to not do this will be something that haunts me for the rest of my life.
I really connected with this book because I could really understand the feelings Cody was experiencing. While I felt those things while my friend was telling me what they were going to do, Cody had no idea Meg was going to commit suicide, which would have been harder to deal with. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for people like Cody; people who don’t have any idea that their best friend would be feeling that way and having to deal with the heartbreak and guilt and to some extent, self-hatred, of that happening. I never ever want to experience that, but I feel like this book was a real insight into suicide and how we never really know anyone. This book got me thinking, how well do I know my friends? How well do I know my family? Does everyone wear a facade and pretend to be okay when they aren’t?
Because of the way Cody refused to believe that Meg’s death was not a suicide because of some hints, for example, the way her ‘note’ was in the form of an email and it seemed very impersonal, and the fact that she wrote something along the lines of ‘this is purely my decision’, I began to think that maybe Meg was still alive and that she somehow faked her death or that she was murdered. I was looking forward to seeing Cody try to work out what happened to Meg or who killed her, but the more I read, the more I realised that wasn’t going to really happen. My favourite part of this book would be the end half, where Cody tries to find out more about what led Meg into committing suicide. It was interesting to see her follow clues and track down numbers and people. Not only was this a journey to try and get to understand Meg’s decision more, it was a journey of self-discovery for Cody. She realised many things along this journey, most importantly, she shouldn’t blame herself.
The romance in this book did seem a little bit clichéd. Okay, maybe a lot clichéd. Cody falls for a ‘player’ who realises that she is the one girl he wants to be with and desperately tries to change his ways to be with her. While the romance wasn’t boring or uninteresting, I just didn’t feel the any chemistry between them. I didn’t feel as though the romance really added to the book, but it was all right. It wasn’t anything special, but it was readable.
Another thing I really loved about this book was how Cody made new friends and how she and her mother managed to rejuvenate their relationship. When Cody went to Meg’s collage to pick up her things, she met a lot of the people that used to know Meg. Getting to know them was really interesting and I loved hearing their stories about Meg because a lot of these people knew Meg in a completely different way to how Cody knew her. I loved the scenes where Cody was trying to work out what these people knew and if they could help her understand the lead up to Meg’s suicide. I absolutely loved it when Cody and her mum started to build up their relationship together again. It was really beautiful to see how even after being distant for a long time, your family still loves you and they’re still willing to do anything for you to keep you safe.
Overall, this book was definitely worth my time and I’m really glad I read it. If this sounds like the type of book you’d be interested in reading, I definitely recommend you give it a try. While I enjoyed reading Gayle Forman’s other books more than this one, this is still a beautifully written and thought-provoking book. I’d give I Was Here by Gayle Forman a score of 8.5 out of 10. If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts!