I Was Here – book review

I Was Here

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.

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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!

Just One Year – book review

Just One Year by Gayle Forman

Just One Year is the romantic and emotional companion novel to Just One Day, written by Gayle Forman.

As Willem comes to his senses and realises that he is once again alone, he knows he needs to find a girl named Lulu. The pair shared one magical and unforgettable day in Paris and those 24 hours left Willem wondering if maybe they weren’t meant to be together because of the way things ended. But Willem is determined to find Lulu. He travels all around the world, from Mexico to India, hoping to find her. But as months go by and Lulu remains elusive, Willem starts to question whether they were ever meant to be together. But he doesn’t want to hear the answer if they’re not.

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I really enjoyed reading Just One Year. I went into this book knowing that it wasn’t really a sequel and that it was more of a companion novel of sorts, which I think helped me to enjoy this book as much as I did. On the back of the book, it says that Just One Year is the sequel to Just One Day. I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word ‘sequel’, I think; Oh yay! We’re going to see what happens next! But no. Not with this one. If you didn’t already know, Just One Year is pretty much the retelling of Just One Day from Willem’s point of view. This book picks up in Paris just when Willem leaves Allyson with every intention to return as soon as possible. If you’ve read Just One Day, you’ll know that Allyson and Willem’s stories diverged from that point in time and the majority of that book is Allyson trying to find Willem, and managing to find herself at the same time too. I really think it’s important to know that this book doesn’t reveal what happens after the end of Just One Day because I know it would be really frustrating to think that you’d get some answers in this book and be left in the exact same spot as you were in before. If I hadn’t have known this book was not a normal sequel, I would have been racing through it to find out what happened after the end of the first book and therefore not enjoy it as much as I did. That’s definitely what you should know before reading this book.

In Just One Day, I didn’t really know what to think of Willem. My initial impressions of him was that he was sweet, but the more I saw of him, the more I thought that he was not that serious about being in a relationship with just one person and was a bit of a player. This annoyed me because I knew how much he meant to Allyson and seeing him flirt with other people when she was right there made me furious. There were even some points in Just One Day where I didn’t want Willem to be with Allyson just because I thought she was too good for him and he was just wanting a fling and nothing serious. I saw how much the one day Allyson had with Willem meant to her and how it changed her life so much and allowed her to discover who she really was, and I didn’t think it would have the same effect on Willem. He seemed like the type of guy who would do that kind of thing a lot. However in this book, I got to know Willem a lot better and I really loved spending time with him and realising what really happened to him.

I realised when I was reading Just One Year that there’s more to Willem than met the eye. I really got to understand him a lot better and what his backstory was. I found out his family life and why he acted the way he did sometimes. He didn’t want to get to connected to things because then he would love those things and those people too much and he had seen what that could do to a person when his father died. His parents, Yael and Bram were the most in love two people could be – stained was what Allyson and Willem said. After Bram died, the one person who knew Willem the most, Willem decided it was best to just escape and go wherever the wind blew him. Instead of deciding what he wanted to do with his life, he did whatever felt right in the moment, but we found out his mother wanted something more for her son’s life than this wandering. Getting to know Willem like this showed me his raw side and what was beneath the charming and mysterious façade. I think that probably one of the reasons why I didn’t like Willem much in Just One Day was because I only really saw that façade and hardly got glimpses at the real him. I loved getting to know him on this emotional level and it really helped me understand why he acted the way he did and what he wanted in life.

One of the relationships that I really loved seeing was the one between Willem and his mother, Yael. Both of them were left in emotional tatters after Bram, Willem’s father, died three years ago. After that, Willem left and Yael moved to India and they were struggling to move on. They drifted apart from one another but in this book, Willem went to India and their relationship slowly got mended and they learnt how to deal with the grief together and how to move past it. I loved seeing the transformations Willem went through when thinking about and spending time with his mother. When they first met one another for the first time in ages, I really got an insight into Willem’s upbringing and what happened that made them drift apart from one another. I loved how messy and real their relationship was and this was an integral part of the novel because it again helped me to understand Willem. Willem comes to realise that him mother and himself aren’t as different as he thought and I loved seeing their relationship grow into that mother-son bond that was there one before. Perhaps what I loved most about it was that their relationship wasn’t perfectly patched up, but we know it will get there one day and it was inspiring to see how even if you don’t think you can connect with someone close to you like you used to, with patience and perseverance, you can reclaim the relationship you had once lost sight of.

Because I initially thought that the day Allyson and Willem spend together meant a lot more to Allyson than it did to Willem, I really liked seeing how those 24 hours changed Willem as well. I really enjoyed seeing how Willem compared meeting Allyson to the love story of Yael and Bram. It was beautiful to see that no matter what obstacles are in your way, you can always get over them or around them if you try. If you want to be with someone and there are hurdles in your way, this book shows that it can happen if both people are determined. If two people are in love and want to be together, it doesn’t matter what’s in their way because they will find a way to be together no matter what. I thought that this book was really inspiring because not only did it tell the heartwarming story of self-discovery, but it also told a story of hope, perseverance, and of course, love.

Overall, I loved reading Just One Year. The characters were all vibrant and alive and also flawed, which makes them real. This book was beautifully written and I know I’ll definitely be reading the story of Willem and Allyson again soon. You should also know that as soon as I finished reading Just One Year, I read Just One Night, the novella that shows what happens in the end with Allyson and Willem. I also absolutely loved the novella and it was great to see what happened between them and now I feel satisfied because I have an idea of how their future will be together. If you haven’t either Just One Day or Just One Year, I definitely recommend them. And if you’ve read Just One Year and you haven’t read Just One Night, seriously, what are you doing with your life? Don’t you want to know what happened with Willem and Allyson? Read it. Just read these books. If you enjoy romance and contemporaries, these books are definitely for you. I’d give Just One Year by Gayle Forman a score of 9 out of 10. If you’ve read this book, let me know your thoughts! Did you know it was going to be more of a companion novel, or were you expecting answers? Have you read Just One Night and are you satisfied with the way things ended? Which book did you prefer – Just One Day or Just One Year? I’d love to hear what you thought!

Just One Day – book review

Just One Day

Just One Day is a heartwarming and beautifully written book by Gayle Forman.

Allyson Healey’s life has always been planned, structured and ordered – just like her suitcase. Then, on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, unguided actor, Willem is everything Allyson is not. But when Willem asks Allyson to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, she says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of both risk and romance. All it takes is 24 hours to change Allyson’s life forever…

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I absolutely loved reading Just One Day! I’d wanted to read this book ever since finishing If I Stay and Where She Went. This book was definitely really different to those two, but I can’t say I liked it any more or any less than the other books by Gayle Forman. This book is ultimately about self-discovery. I loved going on the journey with Allyson to discover who she really is and to feel comfortable being that person entirely. It was a lovely experience and I definitely was able to relate to it.

This book and all the journeys that Allyson embarked upon definitely felt real. I felt as though this wasn’t just fiction in a lot of times. I was completely swept up into the story and I loved being dragged all across the world with Allyson on her adventures. Allyson was a really interesting character. She was trying to be the perfect daughter than her parents always wanted her to be, the Lulu that she had pretended to be while in Paris, and also stay the same childhood friend to Melanie, who constantly reinvents herself. Allyson also had an air of vulnerability about her which makes it impossible for us not to love her. It was heartbreaking, but also devastatingly realistic, to see Allyson grow apart from not only Melanie, but her parents as well. But Allyson made new friends: her roommate at collage, Dee, a student from her ‘Shakespeare Out Loud’ class, and then some Australian tourists in Paris when she finally returns.This book is really about Allyson trying to find her place in the world.

Another character I loved getting to know was Melanie. She was the type of person who changes what they look like and changes their personality as quick as you change your clothes. Every time Allyson saw her, she was like a different person. In the beginning, the friendship between Allyson and Melanie was really strong, but I quickly realised that Melanie had some issues with the fact that Allyson seemed ‘too good’. We get the impression very quickly that Melanie isn’t controlled by anyone and she lives life how she wants. But Allyson begins the book as a more reserved character, always thinking about what others would think of her. She’s the type of person who wants to make everyone pleased with her and make her parents proud. But as the book progressed, we could see that Melanie was no longer satisfied by those attributes in Allyson. When they went to different collages, it also seemed like more work to keep their friendship alive. I know how difficult it can be when you haven’t seen a friend for a while and it seems as though they’ve changed and how awkward it can be to try and have the same conversations like you used to. In a way, it was saddening to see their friendship diminish.

I really liked meeting Dee. He felt like such a big contribution to this book. I loved the scenes between him and Allyson. Dee was a person who changed themselves to fit what the other person wanted them to be like or saw them as. I really understood that feeling of having to change your personality for different people because I used to do that. Perhaps I still do, but I’ve decided I want to be the person I really am and to let people decide if they want to be friends with that person or not, rather than getting to know me as someone I’m not. I get how hard it is to be yourself the whole time and how sometimes it feels like showing your true self to everyone else is like walking around without any clothes on – there’s nothing to hide behind; no mask to wear and no façade to keep up. Because of those reasons, I loved Dee and his friendship with Allyson felt really well developed.

A character that I was unsure about was Willem. He seemed really sweet when we were first introduced to him, but the more time we spent with him, the more I realised there wasn’t anything really in particular that I liked about him. He was a little funny and I loved his sense of adventure and living, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel something was off about him. When him and Allyson were going around Paris together and Allyson saw him being undressed by another girl and letting other girls flirt with him, it made me really not like him. And then when he’d just leave Allyson alone, it frustrated me. Allyson got really scared and worried about being in a foreign country and not knowing French and I felt like in those times, Willem was being a real douche. After he and Allyson got separated, I was devastated. But the more I read on, the more I realised that I didn’t like Willem after all and I didn’t want him and Allyson to get together. When Allyson embarked upon her travels, I kept thinking she’d see Willem someplace and I had conflicted thoughts about that. A part of me wanted her and Willem to be together and be happy, but another part of me just didn’t trust Willem and hated him for some of the things he did.

Besides these main characters, I felt like quite a few minor characters were underdeveloped. I would have liked to know more backstory to a few of them, like Allyson’s dad, and I just would have liked to feel as though I understood them a little better. Learning the backstory of Allyson’s parents was really interesting. Because Allyson was an only child and her parents were unsuccessful in having other children, she and her parents had always believed that they ‘quit while they were ahead’. Willem questions why you would quit while you’re ahead, because he knew people only quit when they were behind. Allyson remembered this and the scene where she talked to her parents about that and how she felt as though they were trying to make her be as much as all the kids they never had. That part of the book was really interesting. She felt as though there was a lot of pressure on her to be perfect and to be the child that her parents wanted her to be. As an only child, I kind of understand how she felt and this would probably be the same for a lot of people. Generally, Allyson was just a really relatable character and I enjoyed spending time with her.

I had mixed feelings about the ending. I both liked and hated the fact that this book ended where it did. I’m not going to spoil it for those who haven’t read this book, but for those of you that have, you must feel my pain. How can it end like that? What’s going to happen next? As soon as I finished this book, I immediately ordered the next book and I’m desperate to read it. But I liked this ending because it gave me room to imagine what was going to happen. However, there’s a fine line between giving us not enough room to imagine what was going to happen and having everything closed off, and giving us too much room. This book borders on too much room, but I guess I haven’t read the next book or Just One Night, the novella/short story (if I’m correct). I absolutely cannot wait to read those as soon as possible!

Overall, I definitely recommend Just One Day for everyone looking for a beautiful book about self-discovery and friendship. The characters were really interesting to get to know and the situations and everything that happened felt really real. I’d give Just One Day a score of 9 out of 10. I can’t wait to read Just One Year!

Where She Went – book review

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went is the stunning book following If I Stay, by Gayle Forman.

It’s been three years since the crash. Three years since the recovery. Three years since Mia walked out of Adam’s life. And three years Adam’s been wondering why.

Mia is now being recognised as one of the best cellists who is still one the rise to classical music stardom. Adam is a celebrity after the rock band Shooting Star became famous. When their paths cross again in New York City, Adam and Mia are brought back together for one life-changing night.

Adam finally has the opportunity to ask Mia the questions that have been going around in his head for the past three years. But will a few short hours in this magical city that never sleeps be enough to lay their past to rest, or can there really be such thing as a second chance at first love?

I absolutely loved reading Where She Went. After reading If I Stay, I simply couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. I was happily surprised to see this book written from Adam’s point of view. I loved Adam so much in If I Stay and I was ecstatic to see that I’d be spending the whole of this book with him. This book alternates between the past with Mia and what is happening now. Like in If I Stay, I loved both the flashbacks and what was going on in present time. I loved seeing the man Adam has become. His devastation was so real and the wound that not even music could fully heal was so easy to see. The writing in this book was utterly amazing. Every character leapt right off the page and I felt connected to all of them. The descriptions were beautiful and moving. Every paragraph is powerful and full of emotions. Being inside Adam’s head was a real privilege. It’s easy to say that I loved this book as much as If I Stay, if not more. If I Stay is about the choice Mia makes to live or die, and what affect her choice would have on the people around her. In this book, as it is set three years later, we really got to see how Mia’s decisions from that moment onwards has affected Adam. It was heartbreaking to know what Adam only admits to himself and to feel what he’s feeling. That would have to be one of my favourite aspects of this wonderful book.
I can’t even begin to explain how much I love spending time with Adam and Mia. I loved these two so much in If I Stay, but I loved them so much more in Where She Went. At the start of this book, I really felt like I was at a distance from Mia, which is what Adam was feeling. It was great how Gayle Forman could make us feel like we hadn’t known Mia for years, when realistically for me it had only been a few days since I was with her in If I Stay. I enjoyed seeing how far Mia has come since the accident and it was inspiring to see her live through the worst pain imaginable and make something good out of her life. It would be so easy to fall into a spiraling sea of sorrow after losing most of her family from one awful day. But Mia was determined not to give in to the sadness and make the most of her life. I love Adam and Mia so much, they’re definitely one of my favourite book couples.
I had so many emotions while reading this book, like when I read If I Stay. It made me cry, it made me laugh… I’m definitely not going to forget this book. There are those books that you read and then never think about again. And then there are those books that leave a mark on you and really impact you, whether that’s because you really connected with what the characters were going through or because it was just a really great book. Where She Went in definitely in the latter category for me. The stories of Adam and Mia are going to stay with me for a really long time. I’d give Where She Went by Gayle Forman a score of 9.5 out of 10. Everyone who loved If I Stay will definitely adore this book.

If I Stay – book review

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay is the heart-achingly beautiful book, written by Gayle Forman.

Seventeen year-old Mia is lucky to have one of the coolest families around and the kind of perfect boyfriend that seems to only exist in fiction. As a talented cellist, Mia has always wanted to be accepted into Julliard, a prestigious music school. But the decision Mia has to make isn’t an easy one. She has to decide to go to Julliard and peruse her cellist dreams, or stay with her family and her boyfriend Adam and follow her heart. With both choices brings gaining something and losing something. But then one terrible morning changes everything. Mia is once again forced to ask herself a question – should I go, or should I stay?

I loved reading If I Stay. I was a little sceptical about how this book could keep my interest for the whole time I was reading it, but it did it with ease. The characters were the main reason for why I loved this book so much. They were all so vibrant and utterly compelling to read about. Their stories and their lives captured me and I loved reading about Mia and Adam’s relationship. It’s rare that I enjoy reading a lot of flashbacks, but this was definitely a time that I did. I absolutely loved reading about what happened before the accident. My favourite parts of the book were the flashbacks to Adam and Mia. I loved learning the story of their relationship and it was beautiful to see how close they were.
If I Stay is such a beautifully written, character-driven novel. From a glance, this book is about a girl choosing between life and death. With each unfolding event, Mia debates as to whether it would be worth staying and dealing with the pain and loss of what has happened, or whether it would be simply easier to die. But this book is so much more than that. The story is so emotional and had me tearing up on multiple occasions. I felt incredibly connected to all of the characters and I loved spending time with all of them. I completely loved reading If I Stay by Gayle Forman and I’d give it a score of 9 out of 10. I definitely recommend reading it!