I loved Gayle Forman's Just One Day (not so much Just One Year) and If I Stay (video review!) and I Was Here (That title, though!) did not disappoint!
Cody was so close to her best friend Meg that they were more like sisters, but Meg has just killed herself, leaving a suicide note in a timed email sent to Meg's parents and Cody. Cody feels lost in the aftermath of losing someone who felt like her better half, someone who has been around her for the majority of her life, someone who she had planned a future with, someone who she knew as well as she knew herself, someone whose family seems more like her family than her own single mother. Then Meg’s parents ask her to go to Meg's dorm to collect their daughter’s stuff. While there she meets Meg's ex, the moody, womanizing, guitarist commonly known as Ben (more on him later), and finds Meg's laptop. A laptop with an email account. An email account with months of correspondence missing. Months during which Cody knows Meg was active—her own inbox proves this. Combined with an encrypted folder, Meg's younger brother's matter-of-fact intelligence and Cody's own need for closure (on more matters than one), the computer leads her on a Veronica Mars-esque road trip of suspicion, investigation, secrets, love, friendship and discovery. She discovers Meg’s involvement in an online suicide network that encourages suicide instead of preventing it. This book has a truly great plot allowing heaps of room for quotable lines and character development, two of the things that I look for in contemporary YA. It is a book for that area of your shelf reserved for contemporary YA chock full with character, meaning and discovery: John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Stephen Chbosky, David Levithan and Robyn Schneider's Severed Heads, Broken Hearts (also called The Beginning of Everything).
Cody is determined, clever, and thoughtful. She exists in the emotional shadow of a dead best friend who shares qualities with Allison of the Pretty Little Liars series and Lilly in Veronica Mars: qualities such as being the sort of person who, at times, shines so bright that they block out the people around them. While Meg was alive she and Cody were inseparable and in death pictures of the two of them still plaster the living girl’s walls. Cody needs to find out the truth behind Meg’s death before she can let go of the memory and try to start a life on her own. She also seems to feel guilty for not noticing that her friend was suicidal as the girl didn't display any of the 'warning signs' mentioned on the internet. Cody is many-layered and often unsure, doubtful about not only herself but about others. At times she even feels as though the ache of Meg's death is too strong for her, and she begins to contemplate going the same way as Meg, especially during correspondence with the mysterious All_BS (a person on the suicide forum Meg used), who Cody attempts to blame for Meg's 'murder'.
The other major character in this book is the above-mentioned Ben. When Cody first meets Ben she hates him. She finds him sleazy and fake, especially when it is revealed that he slept with Meg before her death. She reads their email conversations, sees a message from Ben—“you have to leave me alone”—and is not happy. At all. She judges Ben for who she thinks he is. Then she gets to know him. In my notes I have drawn a love heart around his name so obviously I think he is a good romantic hero. The best thing in Cody and Ben's relationship is, I have to say, the cats. It's what really builds their relationship and it is just about the cutest thing ever. She uses them as an excuse to see him and the fact that he has pictures of them on his phone shows that the womanizing rocker has a soft side. I really enjoyed reading their relationship, just as I enjoyed reading the other relationships Gayle Forman has penned (Willem and Allyson’s in Just One Day, and Adam and Mia’s in If I Stay)
Another character worth a mention is Scottie, Meg's younger brother who was a joy to read. Can Gayle Forman write lovable little brothers or what? Like Teddy in If I Stay (who I loved, as shown in the video) Scottie is just great. I love that unlike many other authors Gayle Forman ignores the annoying little brother stereotype and the boys she writes are funny and clever and thoughtful as opposed to just being annoying comic relief.
Lastly the people Cody meets along the way (Stoner Richard, Alice, Harry) are unique and funny. Overall this book gets major points on character.
This novel will be an excellent addition to any YA fan's bookshelf or eReader if they like thought-provoking books about suicide, mental illness and friendship with occasional forays into music and cats.
It also gets extra points because Meg’s nickname for Cody was Buffy and just, Buffy. But anyway, that’s just me so…