Books · REVIEWS

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I Was Here

“Anything that kills hope is a sin.”

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.

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 Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

Personal Thoughts:

* warning there are some spoilers below.

Saying that I’m a fan of Gayle Forman is one of the biggest understatement. Ever since I fall in love with her books, If I Stay and Where She Went, Gayle become an inspiration to me. Like David Levithan, Gayle’s books are in my auto-buy list. Her works are always a must read because I belive in her talent and creativity. Meeting her in person last year is one of the most wonderful and memorable book-ish experience for me. That day, Gayle mentioned about this new book of her, I Was Here, which she describe as a suicide-mystery novel. I anticipated its release and now that I recently finished the book, I can say that Gayle did it again! She weaved another “all-the-feels” story just like with her previous books.

The story deals with the aftermath of suicide.

After Meg committed suicide her best-friend Cody was left alone to deal with it. She attended every funeral masses for Meg, face every unsaid questions from other people, while trying to grieve. It’s a process she barely understand because she don’t even know why Meg do it? She doesn’t have a clue, not even a single answer. In fact, Cody feels clueless about Meg’s life since they go separate way for college. All the talks and emails they have doesn’t count because apparently there are lots of things that Meg are not telling her. It’s like she didn’t really know her best-friend. This made her more unsettled. She wants to know more. She wants answers and Meg isn’t there anymore to give those to her so she did some digging. Her investigations leads her to a twisted reality, a more dangerous path she didn’t expect.

I Was Here reminded me of one of my favorite contemporary novel, Saving June by Hannah Harrington. Cody’s attempt to unravel the reasons why Meg committed suicide is same with Hannah’s character Harper, except Cody’s discovery is much more darker making I Was Here more disturbing and thrilling.

The title “I Was Here” adds more things for me to contemplate while reading this latest book of Gayle Forman. It is a simple statement that says so much about how people wants to matter in this world. To be recognized as someone who lived. But when you suddenly end your life by suicide unfortunately it is not how you lived but how you end your life is what most people remember.

I’ve already said my opinion about suicide and mental disorders in my review of All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven few weeks ago. How we view suicide as a way out without considering the other person condition. That also applies in here because Meg also suffers depression, a huge factor that push her to end her life. Sometimes we need to see things in a different angel to fully understand the reality of the situation. No one has the right to blame or to pin point someones fault, especially not in a super sensitive situation like suicide. Blaming the person who committed it won’t do any good. Not allowing her to church won’t make any difference. The person is already dead, what ever sin/crime we thought she made is already done, no one can undo it but we can at least give her some peace by respecting her for the last time.

“I was reminded just why God wants us to forgive. Not simply because it’s the key to a better world, but because of what it does for ourselves. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us. Christ forgave us. He forgave our sins. That was his gift. But by allowing us to forgive each other, he opened us up to that divine love. The article had it right. Forgiveness: It’s a miracle drug. It’s God’s miracle drug.”

Beside with depression, Gayle also added a more darker reason that push Meg to end her life in suicide. Apparently there is also this suicide support groups angle. I’m not sure if something like that really exist in the real world but if that really exist I hope no one able to stumble it ever. No one needs encouragement to do suicide.

The complex emotions of loss and grieving flows in every pages of I Was Here. It is a beautiful story that is not meant to provide all the answers or solve cases but to remind us that there are so much more after death and grieving. That sometimes forgiveness is a journey that we all need to take and one of the best way to move forward.

P.S. Read Gayle Forman’s note at the end of the book. There so much in it than just acknowledgments.
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