Review: I Was Here - Gayle Forman

Release Date: January 29th 2015
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 288
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Purchase: Click here to purchase

Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: 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.

Review: I Was Here is a real and emotional account of a young person dealing with the suicide of someone they love. The hurt, the guilt, the suffering, the longing, the never ending questions. It is a heartfelt story of a girl whose sun has died, but finds that even the smallest rays of sunshine can help you survive.

Cody and Meg grew up in a small town, but they had big dreams. However their dreams did not quite work out how they planned, with Meg moving away to go to college, while Cody stayed behind. Although Cody and Meg shared everything, told each other everything, they grew increasingly distant after Meg moved to Seattle. But nothing shocks Cody more than when Meg commits suicide. Cody is heartbroken, she is devastated and she must understand why. And when she finds an encrypted file on Megs computer, she sets out to find the truth.

Along her journey to find the truth behind Meg’s death, Cody meets a lot of people she did not know where in Megs life. Including the blue-eyed, charismatic Ben - the guy who broke Meg’s heart after a one night stand.

I Was Here beautifully, and painfully, explores the painful aspects of being a survivor of suicide: survivors guilt, the never ending questions of “why”, and the need to blame someone else.

Cody clearly goes through all of this throughout I Was Here. Her survivors guilt is explored by her constant anger of the things that she missed, or didn’t know, and her anger towards those she felt should have known, should have helped - including herself.

And the never ending question of “why”. This is a huge thing when it comes to suicide, and this is also crossed over with the need to blame someone else. Cody is determined to blame someone for the loss of her friend, and she goes to great lengths to uncover who that person should ultimately be.

As Meg has already died, this did put some restrictions on connecting to certain aspects of this book. Firstly, we cannot to Meg, as she has already passed, and we cannot create a connection for the relationship between Cody and Meg, as it can only be described through Cody’s memories. But guilt and suffering Cody is going through is palpable, she is clearly hurting and she does not know how to deal with death of her best friend - the person she has always leant on, the person who has always been her sunshine.

Cody does make some rash and prejudiced assumptions throughout I Was Here - especially when it comes to bad-boy rocker Ben. But as she gets to know Ben a little more, she starts to see that she may have been wrong. Cody starts to rely on Ben a little more in her quest to find the truth, and in doing so, she gets know him, maybe even like him.

Her guilt however over her growing feels for Ben constantly get in her way, and in fact, she treats him worse than he ever treated Meg. So along with Cody’s survivor guilt, her heartache and her pain, this storyline also adds the extra guilt of falling for someone during a mutual grieving process - and even worse, falling for the guy your dead best friend had a crush on! Hard topic to tackle, and while may not morally like this aspect of the story, it is one that I actually enjoyed - it was different, and awkward and created a lot of conflict.

As Cody starts to unravel the truth, her guilt and determination to blame someone intensifies. She becomes obsessed and single-minded in her quest to learn the truth, and in this makes a few rather bold and dangerous decisions. This starts to draw Cody into a dark place of her own, and while I did like the questions this posed, I did not like actions that drew her there.

Will Cody get the answers she is looking for? Are there any answers that can take away her pain?

I am always sceptical about suicide stories - especially when it revolves around the questions of “why”. The “why” is a very hard subject to approach in a realistic way, because is there ever any answer to that question that will be acceptable to a grieving loved one? But Gayle Forman handles this question brilliantly. She does so with compassion, with realism and with utter honesty.

Gayle Forman’s simply yet beautiful writing style is once again showcased in I Was Here. I loved the manner in which this topic was approached and explored, and how the process of grieving was a focus of the story, as well as the very important fact that grieving is as individual as the person you have lost.

I Was Here contains heartbreak, guilt, tragedy and hope - a story of love, grief, why’s and acceptance.


“She will not be simple and sweet.
She will not be what people tell her she should be.”

“Secrets are more powerful when people know you’ve got them.”

“ She wasn’t a person who needed to be liked so much as she was a person who liked to be notorious.”


What do you think?

  • Great review Kristy, I was one of the ones who just couldn’t relate to Cody but I like how you described her actions as survival guilt.
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  • Mawa Mahima says:

    Aw, shucks, this sounds so heartbreakingly sad. But I’m sure that lots of people will be able to relate to this, so I look forward (somewhat) to reading it.
    Mawa Mahima recently posted…Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get ToMy Profile

  • Love your review Kristy! I adored the realism of the story as well - I’d even go as far as to argue that maybe that was the best part of the book. I can’t say I was a huge fan of Cody though. I thought that she made way too many poor decisions, one especially of which could have ended very, very badly for her.

  • I’ve been seeing really mixed reviews for this one but I think I might actually give it a go. I feel like it’s something that I have to experience!
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