March 5, 2015

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

It seems abstract when you’re dealing with people online, but they are still people, and some of them are not nice people, not the kind you ever want to be in a room with. Sometimes you don’t even need to be in the same room for the damage to be done.

Synopsis:

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 immediately fell in love with Gayle Forman’s previous books, especially If I Stay and Just One Day. Her past few books have all been emotional, romantic and full of lyrical prose so when I read that she was tackling the subject of suicide in her newest book, I was extremely interested in both the novel, and her spin on the subject matter. Unfortunately, my high expectations were not met.

I Was Here isn’t a terrible novel. It’s not even a bad novel. But there is nothing remarkable about the story either, and that pains me to say. The entire story is very cold and almost unemotional. Which, granted, is because Cody is very much a cold and unemotional character. You know that she is upset at her friend’s death. You know she feels guilt but you never really see it. It’s just talked about, not felt.

Suicide is never an easy subject matter. But it makes it even worse when you write about such a painful topic and it falls flat. Everything is flat. Cody. Her mother. Meg’s parents. Ben. Not one character seems to have a spark. With the exception of Meg’s younger, intelligent brother. I really wish that he had been the main character. I might have actually enjoyed the plot more.

The main reason I kept reading it was to find out WHY Meg had decided to end her life. That was the point for me. Not the flat romance between Cody and Ben. Not Cody’s guilty conscience. But why Meg made that decision. And for that reason, I am glad that I read it. There was a twist I wasn’t expecting and that made it more worthwhile for me. But my main disappointment was definitely Cody. I like when you see the humanity inside a fictional character’s mind. I like learning what makes them tick, what motivates them. And that was why I was so annoyed by I Was Here. You don’t get that with Cody. At all. You get a tease for a split second, and then it’s gone. Reading this book, you just get the feeling that it was rushed, which is strange because it also just drags on. I truly hate to say this, but I was actually glad when the story was finished. Especially since I found another book tackling the same topic that was written so beautifully that I never wanted the book to end.

Have you been disappointed by a book that you had high expectations for? What was it? What was so disappointing about it? Let me know in a comment!

THREE STARS

  • Hi: Thank you for sharing about the book. I have just suffered a loss due to suicide. I was wondering if you could give me the title of the “other” book you mentioned at the end of your post. I am too grasping for answers, knowledge and peace. Thank you for sharing and writing your blog

    ~leelee

    • Absolutely. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. If you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here. The other book is called Playout for the Dead. It was phenomenal. There is still a bit of a romance to it but not as much and the main character is much more relatable and his emotions are quite obvious and heartfelt.

  • I so enjoyed reading this review! I appreciate it when readers review books and actually say what they didn’t like about a book.
    As for the books I didn’t like, it’s Jodi Picoult’s “The Pact”. I was interested in the plot, but as I kept reading it became clear this was not I was looking for. I didn’t like the characters one bit! Jodi Picoult seems like a sought-after writer, but this book disappointed. I have another book on my to-read shelf on GoodReads, “My sister’s keeper”. I saw the movie, but I plan to read the book as well, some day. I hope it’s better that the one I read.
    I am glad you said you liked If I stay, I plan to read that one as well. So many books on my to-read shelf, it’s overwhelming, haha!

  • This sounds like this might be a good read.

    -Zefaniya (Comment and Follow #39)

  • This sounds like a book I would have to pass up. I tend to like romance type books and try to steer away from hard subjects such as this topic. Hate it when I get a book and it just falls short on what I expect. Thanks for giving a review that is so honest!
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  • Sounds like a good read will check it out!