I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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I Was Here by Gayle Forman

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A young girl sets out to investigate why her best friend committed suicide. This study of grief is beautifully drawn and I cried as I read. There is also a romantic strand, handled perhaps less well - predictably really. But it's worth it for the depth of understanding in the approach to the most difficult topic of all.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: January 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1471124398

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I regret to inform you that I have had to take my own life.

Cody finds out that her best friend Meg has committed suicide by email. A flat, formal, email. We follow her over the ensuing months as she searches for answers. How could she not have realised that her friend was in such pain? What had caused that pain? When packing up Meg's belongings, Cody finds emails on her laptop to a boy that has broken her heart. Is Ben McAllister the cause of Meg's suicide? But there's an encrypted file, too. And when Cody finally opens it, she finds information that will take her on a journey, not only through Meg's life, but also her own...

... oh, this is a truly moving story.

I thought that the handling of grief in I Was Here was absolutely superlative. And I'm not ashamed to confess that I cried as I read. Cody isn't always an entirely reliable narrator - she's not in possession of all the facts surrounding Meg's suicide, but she's also not always entirely in possession of herself. That's normal, but Cody doesn't realise that. She's a spikey character anyway, resenting her mother, her poor background and her small town surroundings. And grief over Meg exacerbates all that. So she closes herself off, even from Meg's parents, and her social interactions are often quite suspicious and aggressive. But underneath all that lies a good but guilty heart and you really wish Cody well as she sets out to do something for the dead friend she can't help but feel she let down, in the very worst of ways.

Forman holds tension throughout and she really communicates the dangers of "suicide communities" hidden away in the recesses of the internet. It's not unusual to have morbid thoughts - we all have them from time to time - but it is frightening to observe the dangerous paths people can move down without help and interventions. I feared for Cody. And I hope Forman has illuminated the danger.

The underlying romantic strand of the book I found less successful. It wasn't that it was in any way bad; just a tad predictable. I don't want to ruin anything for you, so I won't say anything beyond this. Just don't expect any surprises and you'll be fine.

Suicide is perhaps the most difficult topic of all. Grief is a hard one, too. But that doesn't mean we should shy away from them. In fact, it means the opposite. With understanding, comes healing. I Was Here demonstrates a real depth of understanding of both. So it comes recommended by all of us here at Bookbag. We also have a review of I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman.

Other great stories covering the immensely difficult topic of suicide include Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and The Suicide Club by Rhys Thomas. We liked the themes behind Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff but thought that the execution could have been better.

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Buy I Was Here by Gayle Forman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Was Here by Gayle Forman at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.

Buy I Was Here by Gayle Forman at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Was Here by Gayle Forman at Amazon.com.


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