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.
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!