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Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman


Cody and Meg were inseparable...Until they weren’t.
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, and some secrets of his own. 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.


Meg was her whole world. Without her, Cody did not think she could exist. Then one day Meg kills herself. Now what is Cody to do? How will Cody survive without her sun? 

This is how our story begins. Cody is living her average life, in her average small town, when she receives and email from her best friend, Meg, saying she has killed herself. Suddenly, Cody’s life is anything but average. Now it is a dark, gloomy pit of despair. Well, more despair than she was already in. 

After all the memorials, vituals, and prayer services, Cody thinks she can finally lay Meg to rest, mentally, until Meg’s parents ask her to go collects Meg’s things from her apartment. Simple enough. Cody can get and get out, giving Meg’s parents some closure as well as herself. Or so she thinks.

As Cody is gathering Meg’s stuff, she reminisces over the adventures they’ve had. And over the ones they would have had if Cody had moved out here with Meg. Maybe Cody could have stopped this. Or helped in some way. Or at least she just could have been there; been a factor in Meg’s life, not a memory of the past.

As Cody is packing up the last of Meg’s things, curiosity gets the best of her and she opens Meg’s laptop. Cody starts going through her emails to see if there was something there she could have missed. Something in their conversations, before and after things got weird between them, that could have forewarned Cody of this. Then Cody notices these emails between Meg and this boy.  At first things are casual and flirty and Cody can see Meg really liked this boy. Then it becomes distant between the two. Until finally Meg writes, “You won’t have to worry about me anymore.” And now Cody is seeing red. This boy is the reason Meg is gone and her world with it. 

And now Cody is out with a V for Vengeance. Thus her search leads her to Ben, or the Tragic Guitar Hero, as Meg had labeled him. But Cody knows he’s the one that broke Meg’s heart and all Cody wants to do is break him. And break him she does. But it’s that look of guilt on his face that doesn’t give her quite the satisfaction. 

A few more run ins with Ben has Cody second guessing if he is the one who truly caused Meg’s death. That and the fact there are months of emails missing from Meg’s computer. Back home again, it occurs to Cody to ask Harry, Meg’s computer savvy roommate to retrieve the missing files from her laptop.

And retrieve them he does. There are tons of emails to the suicide support group, the kind of support group that encourages you to commit suicide, not help you fight against it, called The Final Solution. And even more surprising is this guy with the username All_BS. He’s the one who not only fully encourages Meg to take control of her life (ironic I know), but also tells her how to get the poison, where and how to off herself, and how to time release the emails to loved ones left behind. Thus giving Cody the final piece to the puzzle on why Meg killed herself.

But this is not enough for Cody. She needs to get this guy to fess up to what he did and take the blame for taking her friend. So Cody pretends to be a person ready to commit suicide, in order to lure him out. And not only does she lure him, she gets him. And with Harry’s help, she not only learns his true identity but also finds out where he lives. Now there is just the question of getting to where he is. And she can think of only one person to call: Ben. 

Yes, the same Ben who flirted and dated and slept with Meg; the same Ben who also charms his way into Cody’s heart. However this same Ben is the only person she can trust with this information about Meg, the person that ties them both together and the only person she’d want to accompany her.

Yet on this road of discovery, Cody gets more questions than answers and the truth becomes less clear. Or rather, the truth she thinks she knows begins to fade and is replaced with the actual truth that’s been staring her in the face. Maybe Cody didn’t know her best friend as well as she thought. Maybe Ben, All_BS, and even herself were never to blame. And maybe she isn’t a sunless planet after all, but a person grieving for the loss of a friend. 

I Was Here is a novel unlike any other. It not only addresses the issue of suicide from a religious and non-religious standpoint, but it also addresses the issue of suicide from the suicidal, to those left behind by the act. I would also say this is a thought provoking novel, in that it asks the big questions.  Such as “Who am I”, not only to ourselves but to others; as well as “Can I do this?” or “How strong am I really?”, not just in terms of depression or suicide, but in terms of life too. But most importantly, I Was Here gives meaning and value to each individual life. Helping us to understand that we all matter and that the ones you leave behind are not better off without the deceased.

Reviewed by Camia Rhodes

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (January 27, 2015)

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