At first I thought ‘Oh no, this is going to be terribly similar to If I Stay‘ and I was right…to a certain extent. There were the same basic plot points from If I Stay: Someone dies, main character questions whether they can carry on, musically gifted love interest. But this time there was an added road trip, because it’s not a contemporary romance if two people don’t spend an extended amount of time together in a car. However, I wasn’t completely right, because there were new original characters, and a deeper message embedded in all the drama, which made for an interesting read, but I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it more than Gayle Forman’s other works.
The protagonist is Cody, and it took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that Cody was a girl. It also took me a fraction too long to realise that Tricia was her mother. I Was Here is about Meg’s death. Cody is Meg’s best friend, and she has to go to Meg’s uni to sort out her room and she notices encrypted files in Meg’s trash on her computer. It’s safe to say that although Cody is the narrator, Meg is the main character, and because of this I don’t feel like I knew Cody as well as I did Meg, even though she was telling the story! The only thing I could tell you is that she liked Dr. Pepper, and that’s about it. The intricate details that make a person, I felt were missing, but what I could say by the end of the novel was that Cody stood up for what she believed in, and was feisty at times, but she was also quite nervous and confused. She was definitely determined to get to the bottom of Meg’s suicide.
What I did like about I Was Here was the use of secondary/minor characters. I could imagine them all clearly, and they have a clear and obvious part to play in the story. Meg’s roommates were my favourites, particularly Richard, which, given his ‘Stoner’ prefix, may sound a little odd.
Ben McCallister annoyed me. I knew from the first conversation he had with Cody that I wasn’t going to like him, and even though I suppose he ‘redeemed’ himself by changing who he was, this story would have been a lot stronger if it was purely about friendship. Leading nicely on to…
I really didn’t like the romance in I Was Here, I thought it detracted from the message of the story. Yes, it was angsty with a pinch of confusion and lust, but it was cliched and not what I wanted to read when I had been promised “a journey of self-discovery which takes [Cody] 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.” (GoodReads blurb)
I thought that the novel would’ve been a lot better had the romance not been included.
Plot and Pacing:
Even though the romance made me cringe, I thought that the sensitive topic of suicide was dealt with in great care, and the emotions portrayed were raw and real. The mystery element of the story was engaging, if not a little disturbing. Although Cody’s plans to discover Meg’s secrets came to fruition, I found the outcome slightly disappointing, but I was glad that the relationship between Cody and her Mum was saved! The story remained engaging throughout the novel, and the pacing was consistent, but personally I wasn’t on the edge of my seat.
Overall, I’ve given I Was Here 2 stars, it would have gotten more, but I felt the focus of the novel wasn’t what I was expecting. I would recommend it, on the other hand, to any one who wants to read a slight mystery, and any one who likes to ‘take something away’ from reading, because the contemplation of life was excellently executed.