Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

January 29, 2015 Review 36 ★★½

Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman
I Was Here by Gayle Forman
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Australia
Source: Netgalley
Pages: 288
Release Date: January 29th, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Death & Dying, Friendship, Mysteries & Detective Stories, New Adult, Suicide
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From the bestselling author of If I Stay - this summer's YA blockbuster film.
This characteristically powerful novel follows eighteen-year-old Cody Reynolds in the months following her best friend's shocking suicide.

As Cody numbly searches for answers as to why Meg took her own life, she begins a journey of self-discovery which takes her to a terrifying precipice, and forces her to question not only her relationship with the Meg she thought she knew, but her own understanding of life, love, death and forgiveness.

A phenomenally moving story, I Was Here explores the sadly all-too-familar issue of suicide and self-harm, addressing it in an authentic way with sensitivity and honesty

I received this book for free from the source listed above in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

bec (2)

Well, I have finally read a book about the much-hyped Gayle Forman. I really don’t know what to think. I read I WAS HERE over a week or so interrupted by placement and tiredness. Even though I enjoyed it there were many times I’d procrastinate reading more. The story just did not captivate me as much as some other novels have, despite the good characters and writing.

I WAS HERE is a novel that explores suicide, depression, and grief. Our main character, Cody, has just lost her best friend and the suicide note is not enough of an explanation. The novel follows Cody as she investigates the reasons why Meg killed herself, and as she struggles to accept the fact that Meg is gone and didn’t share as much with Cody as she thought.

Cody was a pretty good main character. I liked her voice and her sarcasm. She had an entertaining narration that wasn’t boring or hard to read. Cody is also very different from me. Life hasn’t been as good to her, she didn’t go to college straight out of high school. Instead she works and supports herself and manages to do okay. She’s confident and a different type of smart.

Secondary characters were a good aspect of the novel. Each was definitely distinct with their own personalities and quirks. I really wish we could have gotten to know some of these characters and their relationship (or lack of) with Meg better as it seemed that as soon as they had fulfilled their plot purpose at the start we never really saw them again, the exclusion being Ben. Which was a missed opportunity because there was quite a diverse range of people there.

Another thing I quite enjoyed in I WAS HERE was the romance. It’s my favourite type of relationship: bickering that turns into friendship (with light hearted bickering) which turns into romance. Nice and slow. You know, I sort of wish there was more romance in this because I think that’s what I was in the mood for. At the same time I’m glad romance wasn’t the main focus of the novel because that probably would have annoyed me more.

My biggest problem was a lack of emotional connection. I think the main thing was I was expecting more. More pain, more heartbreak, more feels. But because I never got attached to the characters, I never really cared what was happening. Sure it was sad, but I’ve read sadder. And things at the end seemed to be pretty anticlimactic or change suddenly. For example, some of Tricia’s actions at the end seemed to come out of nowhere, and the truth Cody learnt about Meg View Spoiler » was something I had suspected from the start and I’m surprised Cody, being the smart girl she was, didn’t at least suspect.

After hearing so much love for Gayle Forman, I was a little disappointed with I WAS HERE. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was good and I like the characters and romance, but I really just wanted more. There was no emotional connection, which is the main reason I WAS HERE fell flat for me. Fear not, die hard Forman fans, as I am willing to try Gayle Forman’s writing again if I can get my hands on some of her other books.

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Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
Romance
Overall: 3.1

36 Responses to “Review: I Was Here by Gayle Forman”

  1. Renee Bookboyfriends

    I feel ya! I’ve read other reviews and a lot of people had the same sort of reactions. Maybe another re-write would have worked in her favour? And you know what’s weird? We all complain about feels and how our hearts hurt and what not, and then if something isn’t SAD ENOUGH it’s like oh yeah no emotional attachment. Like, sorry but I like crying while I read world!!!! ha ha ha
    I still haven’t read any Gayle Foreman because I have mixed reactions about reading any of her books because they all seem to get the similar reaction.
    Glad that it was a good narrative voice though. :D And I have to agree they ARE the best romances. :D Lovely review Bec!
    Renee Bookboyfriends recently posted…theravenboys:bookboyfriends replied to your post:aren’t we all thankful such a wonderful person…

    • Bec

      A lot of people have had similar reactions to the story, though there are a few out there who loved it to pieces.

      I LOVE when a book give me feels. It’s one of the best things that can happen because it means I’ve truly connected with the characters and the story.

      Usually Gayle Forman gets a lot of hype for writing sad books and I haven’t seen any low ratings for her books. I Was Here has made me wonder though…

      Thanks :)

  2. Kirsty-Marie

    This was my first one of hers too, and I did like it more (and I was impressed by the writing) and really liked the romance too, but that was my issue as well. No connection. I mean, I liked Cody, and I did get her, but since we’re were told all about their friendship etc and how they were more like sisters, I didn’t care less because we didn’t see it, so I was just ‘oh, okay’.
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Problems, Problems, We All Have Problems…

    • Bec

      I’m glad you enjoyed it more! Yeah, that’s exactly it. We weren’t shown enough of Meg and Cody’s friendship before college for me to really care about her death and how it affected Cody. Flashbacks can be annoying sometimes but I think they would only have benefited this story.

    • Bec

      I do want to at least check out If I Stay. I think that’s the one with the biggest emotional reaction from people. Hopefully I can connect with them better :)

  3. Nova @ Out of Time

    I feel like a lot of people have said this. The whole emotional connection wasn’t there for a lot. I’m the type to feel things really deeply, so I have no fear about it. I didn’t read If I Stay because it wasn’t my kind of book but this one seems deeper and darker. more for me.

    Great review!
    Nova @ Out of Time recently posted…Book Review: Fairest – Marissa Meyer

    • Bec

      Normally I get over attached to characters really quickly so it was weird for me not to feel anything with this. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to read it!

      Thanks :)

  4. Melliane

    Sorry to see that you wanted more and you finally didn’t get that. I heard a lot about this book and I confess that the great reviews everywhere made me curious but I haven’t read or bought it yet but maybe one day. But I think I would expect a lot too…
    Melliane recently posted…One Week Girlfriend by Monica Murphy

    • Bec

      Gayle Forman just gets so much hype in general it was really disappointing not getting the emotion so many people promise. Most reviews I’ve seen are pretty meh but there are a few good reviews out there!

  5. Wattle

    Aw I’m sorry you didn’t love this one, but perhaps the next Gayle Forman novel will be better? (I honestly have read none of her books yet, but like you, am well aware of the hype!)

    It’s always hard to truly like something when you just cannot emotionally connect with a character :(
    Wattle recently posted…Book Review: Light of Lorelei by Jen Minkman

    • Bec

      Hopefully! She can’t have this much hype for no reason.

      It’s amazing how much emotional connections can affect your enjoyment of a story!

  6. Jess @My Reading Dress

    BEC!!!!! I kind of liked this one, against all odds. I WAS SO SURPRISED. I don’t even read contemporary and man oh man, the reviews coming in haven’t been too positive. But then I delved in and everything just clicked with me (LOL not literally). Her voice felt so raw and real, I don’t know. It just worked, you know? But yeah, disconnection can really mar the reading experience. Lovely review, Bec! x
    Jess @My Reading Dress recently posted…The Bone Season #2: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

    • Bec

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I read fluffy contemporary romances every now and then to break up some of the fantasy, so this was still a bit outside my usual reading genres. Cody did have a great voice, I just wish I could have connected with her a little bit more.

      Thanks!

  7. Lara

    I wasn’t a huge fan of this either, but I wasn’t too surprised since I haven’t enjoyed Gayle Forman’s other novels and I’m generally not a huge fan of contemporary. I think my main problem was that I just really didn’t know Meg as a person… I mean, it makes me sound horrible and insensitive, but she was dead the whole time so I never sympathised with her…
    Lara recently posted…Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas || A Spoiler Filled Review

    • Bec

      That was one of the biggest problems! I think we were supposed to be sad she died and question why she would kill herself but we were never given the opportunity to see what she was like when she was alive. It made it hard to care about her suicide, definitely.

    • Bec

      A lot of people are having similar reactions, yeah. Which is a shame. Forman is such a well loved author.

    • Bec

      No connection really makes it difficult to find the motivation to read. Cody did get quite stalkerish! Her descent into that behaviour was fascinating to read about but also very concerning because it made her take some stupid risks/put herself in potentially dangerous situations.

      Thanks :)

  8. Faye M.

    Many of the problems people had with this book were the lack of emotional connection as well, though I feel like to them it was more because they just couldn’t relate to Cody very much and/or they were annoyed by her. I haven’t read a Gayle Forman, but if ever I’m going to pop my Forman cherry, it probably won’t be this which is kinda her least well-received book yet, from what I noticed!
    Faye M. recently posted…ARC Video Review: Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

    • Bec

      It was a bit hard to relate to what she was going through, mostly because we didn’t get the chance to become attached to get to know Meg. She also made some… not amazing decision as she was trying to come to terms with her best friends death that a lot of people aren’t going to agree with.

      The next Gayle Forman book I read is definitely going to be one of her well received ones. I can see the potential in I Was Here, but it just wasn’t executed as well as you’d expect from such a popular author.

  9. A Canadian Girl

    Aw, it’s too bad you weren’t able to emotionally connect with this one. I know I always need to care about the characters when I’m reading a book that’s dealing with serious topics.

    I loved If I Stay and Where She Went, but didn’t really enjoy Just One Day. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that when I read this one, my experience will be more like my reaction towards If I Stay.
    A Canadian Girl recently posted…Review: Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

    • Bec

      Yeah, connecting with characters emotionally is needed to feel anything more than “meh” about a story.

      If I Stay seems to be one of the most well loved Forman books so I might try that next. I hope you enjoy I Was Here more than I did!

  10. Kelly

    This is a tricky one to start with, as it doesn’t have as much emotion as her other books I’ve found, but I enjoyed it anyway, being the Gayle Forman fan that I am. I enjoyed the romance, but when Cody begun becoming obsessed with Meg’s demise, it felt a little strange and I questioned her mental health. I wondered if she was actually trying to live Meg’s life at one point. Don’t give up on Forman just yet though, Just One Day was her best release for me. I’d love to know what you think of that one. Awesome review poppet <3
    Kelly recently posted…Hubby’s Review: Golden Son by Pierce Brown

    • Bec

      It was very concerning when Cody because obsessed with that suicide group. it made me question where this book was going!

      Just One Day might be the book I try next because it’s the one that most appeals to me.

      Thanks :)

  11. Andreea

    I want to read this book so bad. It’s on top of my wish list. But I am trying to save money and not buy as many books as before so who knows when I’ll be buying it.

    I have heard some mixed things about it, but I hope I will still love it!

    Great honest review!

    • Bec

      You could see if you’re library has it! Or maybe there’ll be a book sale somewhere soon. I hope you get your hands on it and love it!

      Thanks :)

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