I Was Here by Gayle Forman, published by Simon and Schuster on 29th January 2015
This characteristically powerful novel follows eighteen-year-old Cody Reynolds in the months following her best friend's shocking suicide.
As Cody numbly searches for answers as to why Meg took her own life, she begins a journey of self-discovery which takes her to a terrifying precipice, and forces her to question not only her relationship with the Meg she thought she knew, but her own understanding of life, love, death and forgiveness.
Gayle Forman books are always deeply moving and emotional, reflecting on the ups and downs of the choices we make in life. 'I Was Here' was no exception. A dark and serious story dealing with some strong themes, such as teen suicide, mental illness and self-harm, it was a difficult read at times. There are moments of light and hope but overall I found it pretty hard-going in places. I had to put the book down a couple of times and then start again when I'd composed myself.
Cody's best friend Meg commits suicide. Cody wants to know why and struggles to understand why she knew nothing about Meg's thoughts prior to her death. Gradually she begins to unravel the truth about the best friend she thought she knew so much about, discovering a side to Meg that was previously hidden. I liked the realism of friends being split up by the university experience. We got to see how Cody felt about being left behind, as well as how it must have been hard for Meg having to try to build a new circle of friends, while dealing with the ups and downs of university life.
I would have liked to have felt more connected to the character of Cody but the whole plot is so centred around her trying to find out about Meg that at times, I felt like I didn't wholly understand Cody herself. She is desperate to find out the truth but I wasn't wholly convinced about the eventual outcome of this part of the story.
There is some romance in the book but this seemed to take a backseat to other aspects of the story and I didn't feel invested in it at all. In fact, I would have been quite happy if it had been stripped away.
Sensitively written, 'I Was Here' addresses topics which will resonate with teen readers. Although it wasn't my favourite Gayle Forman book, I took a lot of positive messages away from it and will be looking out for more from her in the future.