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.

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If I Stay

If-I-Stay-2014-Movie-Poster-Wallpaper-2048x1536Where to even begin… I read If I Stay, a young adult novel by the incredibly talented Gayle Forman, around three years ago while I was still in middle school. Immediately after finishing it, I read the sequel, Where She Went, because it had just released and I needed more. More Mia, more Adam, more Mia and Adam, and most of all, closure on everything following the ending of the first novel (I’ll try to keep this post spoiler-free).

I absolutely love this duology. I love the realness, the rawness that Forman manages to evoke in the flow of her story and in her characters in a seemingly effortless manner. When I found out (a bit belatedly) that If I Stay was being turned into a movie and would release this year, I was beyond excited. But I was also nervous- I worried that the storyline would be over-romanticized and changed to make teenage girls who don’t read swoon. And when I first looked up the cast, I was ambivalent about Chloë Grace Moretz playing Mia, because she just isn’t the way I pictured the protagonist in my head. Jamie Blackley looked much more the part of Adam immediately to me. However, as more and more previews played (and I couldn’t avoid them any longer, as much as I wanted to retain my mental image of Adam and Mia), I grew used to the idea of Chloë-as-Mia and made my peace with this minor issue. It also helped to discover that Gayle Forman was an executive producer of the film, and she helped write the script.

Well, I saw the movie last night with my fellow blogger friend, Grace. We both read the book for the first time years ago (and have obviously reread it multiple times since it’s so great). I can only speak for myself, but I thought the film was a hit. I loved it, all of it, and I am normally very critical of book to movie adaptations. The movie stayed true to the book it’s based on, but was easy to follow for those who have not read the novel (shame on them!). I thought the acting and character representations were spot on, and the wardrobe, sets, and film locations were perfect. It was such a pleasure seeing the characters come to life. The Hall family was is so cool, Mia is so wonderfully awkward at times, and Adam should be a role model for all boyfriends.

The movie also gave me all the feelings that the book gave me. I laughed because it was funny, I shed tears because it was devastating, and I got chills because it was heart-wrenching. There were so many “aw” moments because Mia and Adam’s relationship was so lovely, and realistic to the extent that true love and soul mates exist. They are perfect for each other, they love each other so much, and they have common interests, yet they still have to battle through rough patches and rocky decisions. Their love story is perfectly imperfect (as further proved in Where She Went). For me though, the movie was not just about the romance. Yes, that is a huge aspect of the book, and therefore the film. But I think that love in general is what ties everything together- love of music, love of family, love of friends, and love of life. If I Stay– both the novel and the movie- champions life. There is so much to live for, and love is what makes a good life.

I would not change this movie. I do wish that Mia’s relationship with and deep love for Teddy was shown more. But with the switches back and forth between the present (comatose Mia in the hospital) and the past (Mia’s budding career as a concert cellist and Mia’s relationship with Adam, including bits and pieces of her family and friends), it might have been overwhelming to explore another relationship in-depth. There were parts of the movie when I would begin to tear up, and then a happy flashback would occur and I wouldn’t have time to cry. Sometimes the switches back and forth were a little quick or choppy, but I thought the timing was pretty good overall. The movie also omits Mia’s struggle to make Kim and Adam friends, but I didn’t feel it needed to be included. And on a side note, Adam’s band was renamed from Shooting Star to Willamette Stone (some of their songs are on the movie soundtrack). Minor, minor changes, guys.

If I Stay is a fantastic novel and a fantastic film. I highly recommend seeing it, even if you’ve read the book. Especially if you’ve read the book. I don’t think you will be disappointed. Lovers of the book will love it, and hopefully those who have not yet read the novel will after seeing the movie. The movie stays very true to the book, doing it the justice it deserves. It has received positive reviews by critics (an A- from Entertainment Weekly and a 7.1/10 rating from IMDB) and is number one in the box-office since it’s release Friday. I rarely see movies and I’m always wary of page to screen adaptions, but in my book (no pun intended), If I Stay was a huge success. Well done.

If I Stay: the book | If I Stay: the movie | Grace’s Blog