End of an Era

FullSizeRenderTwo of my favorite people in the world finished high school today. Albeit, graduation isn’t for another week and a half, but today marked the end of an era. Never again will I meet my best friend after homeroom for an approximately seven minute chat. Never again will my other best friend meet us around three and a half minutes later to join in. Never will the latter and I walk together in the hallways after a shared class or close-together classrooms. Never will I see either of them at lunch or in the parking lot. It’s not that I’ll never see them again, not at all. It’s just that I met both of my best friends in high school. At school. We got to know each other and bonded over those walks between classes, exchanged sentences at lunch, and knowing glances in the hallways. Without our school, we wouldn’t have met or become the friends we are today. And so even though I know our friendships will continue on, it’s sad that they won’t live on within our high school, within our shared space. AM and PM will remain, but in a different way. There will be fewer small moments, fewer in-betweens when a story can be shared or an inside joke can be told or an understanding can be reached. Instead of having designated time given to us, we’ll have to make it.

For years, they have been my rocks.

The hallways will feel empty without them.

Book Haul | 1


Today I have to share with you a MAJOR book haul! I’ve accumulated quite a few books over the past few months, so this haul spans from late February to today. I actually have one or two more novels coming in the mail soon, but I figured I’d save those for another time since this post is already so big. Without further ado, here are the books I’ve purchased or received this spring!

FullSizeRenderStephanie Perkins’ Anna, Lola, and Isla companion trilogy. I’ve already read these adorable contemporary novels, but I wanted to own them for rereading purposes.

IMG_0140 2Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy (U.K. boxed set)

FullSizeRender 2Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places, which I reviewed in April, and Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes, one of my most-anticipated releases of 2015.

FullSizeRender 3My friend Korina gave me all these books. Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist was a birthday gift. Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Heather Demetrios’ I’ll Meet You There were each part of a monthly book exchange Korina and I do. (I’ll be posting about that later.)

For School
FullSizeRender 4We’re reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried in my English class. Thankfully, my mom pays for my school books!

Thanks for stopping by.

xx. Martha

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

51BFWYC2-nL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Novel: I Was Here by Gayle Forman | Goodreads
Release Date: January 27th, 2015
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Also Published On: Lit Up Review

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.

This one was somewhat of a let down for me. I’ve been a fan of Gayle Forman’s since If I Stay was a light blue hardcover featuring a bird and a tree (what even was that cover??). She’s made my auto-buy list with her life-changing duologies that keep me self-reflecting weeks, months, years after reading them. The only reason I didn’t automatically purchase I Was Here was because I’ve been tight on money and trying to save. But I’m thankful that I didn’t purchase Forman’s fifth contemporary novel because I will never reread it.

Now let me just put this out there – this novel was by no means bad. In fact, I quite enjoyed reading it: it was a quick, easy, and, for the most part, engaging read. However, it didn’t live up to my extremely high standards for Gayle Forman. I Was Here is a novel about suicide, or rather, the aftermath of it. Cody is the former best friend of dead Meg, and she’s left to put together the pieces of Meg’s surprising suicide. The novel deals with friendship, with coming of age, with family, with small town life, and with love. It had all the ingredients for a great cake of a story, but overall it fell flat for me.

Here were my biggest issues:
1. Cody falls in love with the guy who broke Meg’s heart. They both lost their virginity to him.
2. The pacing of the novel is a bit slow and, at times, boring.
3. The big reason for Meg’s suicide – depression – is obvious to the reader from the beginning, but Cody never figures it out on her own.
4. Forman touches briefly on all of the issues explored in this novel, but doesn’t go into the depth readers experience in her other novels.
5. For a novel about teen suicide, it sparked hardly any emotion in me as a reader.

My favorite characters in this novel were side characters. I liked the character development of Cody’s mom, adored Meg’s little brother, and enjoyed the humor of Meg’s old roommates. I liked Cody and Ben both separately, and together in a platonic way. That being said, Cody and Ben together were just alright. While their romance did take a backseat in this novel, I think I Was Here would have been better off if it hadn’t existed at all. Their relationship brings this novel to the brink of the new adult genre rather than YA, and it just feels forced/cliche/fake/unnecessary to the focus of the plot.

The pros of this novel are great character development and evolution of relationships between characters. The characters provided depth where the issues did not. The plot is slow, but still manages to be engaging. I think every reader will be disgusted as it unfolds to reveal the events leading up to Meg’s death, and in this regard the novel is a success. Forman draws attention to the dangers of online pro-suicide “support groups” that prey on vulnerable young minds. As always, Forman tackles a deep issue, but with less grace than I was accustomed to in her previous novels. The many typos in the book and the lack of depth to the abundance of issues covered makes me think this book was written in a rush, with little revision or review. In addition, Forman’s writing had an inferior quality to it when compared to her other works.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult for me to write a fair, balanced review when I feel disappointed by a book, particularly one I was really looking forward to reading. I Was Here was not a poorly written, disgrace of a novel. Not at all. It was a far cry from Forman’s If I Stay and Just One Day duologies, but I rated it a 3.5/5 stars on Goodreads. There were certainly elements that I appreciated and I don’t regret reading it. But it didn’t change me the way I wanted it to, the way Forman’s other novels did and the way suicide novels like All the Bright Places did. It was underwhelming and that’s okay.

I remain neutral in recommending this novel. If it sounds interesting to you, then pick it up and you will most likely enjoy it. If you’re looking for a life-changing novel, I’d suggest reading one of Forman’s other books.



As usual, life has been hectic lately. I most likely won’t have new content going up on Gemrene over the next two weeks (aside from a book review on Tuesday) due to AP exams. I’ve got four in the next week or so and I’ll be studying and freaking out and essentially not making time to post. However, every so often when I feel myself getting caught up in the fast-paced time crunch of everything, I like to sit down and reflect a bit on what’s been occurring in my life – good and bad.

The Good
1. The Lightning won their series in the first round of the playoffs and advanced to the second round to face the Canadiens. Last night they won their first Round 2 game in a double overtime thriller.
2. I did well on my practice exams for AP Calc and AP Psych. Hopefully those results are applicable to my future exam scores!
3. I was inducted into my school’s highest honor society Thursday.
4. I saw part of one of my good friend’s last musical theater performances in Cabaret last Saturday.
5. I have been feeling very thankful for my friends and most of my teachers.
6. I took the U.S. History SAT Subject Test this morning and thought it went pretty well. Fingers crossed!
7. I finished the book for April book club – Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger – and attended the meeting. I’ve been surprisingly reflective since reading it.
8. I took the ACT in April and got my scores back. They were solid.
9. I absolutely adore the family I regularly babysit for.
10. There are several great books that have either recently released or that are about to release that I’m highly anticipating reading… when I finally have time.
11. The Rangers and the Blackhawks (my two backup teams) also advanced to the second round of the playoffs.

The Not So Good
1. I didn’t receive a board position on Beta Honor Society or Gold & Black honor society.
2. I’m still waiting to hear about leadership positions for several clubs, namely Social Studies Honor Society.
3. I’m probably going to retake both the SAT and ACT in June because I’m perfectionistic and masochistic. :))
4. On a whim this morning, I decided to take the Literature SAT Subject Test cold (no practice, no prep). This turned out to be a terrible decision.
5. I haven’t been babysitting as often lately, which means less money and less time with my fun second family.
6. My cousin is extreme dieting, has highly distorted body image, and is struggling with mental illness. I feel helpless.
7. I haven’t had or made time for pleasure reading.
8. I have a TON of studying, test prep, and practice tests to do. A TON.
9. I’m nervous for my exams and I’m also sleep-deprived and I’m also an insomniac the night before exams and also I get major test anxiety. Yay for assessments that may or may not decide where I get into college!
10. My current mid-quarter grades in my two honors classes are lower than all my other grades and I’m eager to raise them, but annoyed that they need to be raised in the first place.
11. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and anxious about the right now’s and the summer to-do’s, but I simultaneously feel like I’m not doing enough to compete with my peers at school and around the world who will be applying to the same schools I am. AGH.

So basically, my life revolves around school, hockey, and a tiny bit of miscellaneousness. I think that after AP exams I may be able to calm down, though maybe not if I am stressing about June standardized tests. I have a post idea I want to write at some point soon while it’s fresh: a post about passion. Anyway, good luck to future me in my exams and good luck to any of you who are taking them these next two weeks! Bonne chance.

Thanks for reading my rambles.
xx. Martha