What happens when your best friend leaves you to go off to college and then winds up committing suicide before her first year is even finished? Young adult author Gayle Forman seeks to answer this question in her latest novel “I Was Here.”
Meg and Cody are best friends, sisters almost, drawn together because of their mutual distaste for their hometown and their dreams for the future. But naturally they grow apart when they are separated for college. Cody admires Meg for her tenacious character and her bravery, as Meg achieves what Cody cannot—escaping their hometown. Then Meg kills herself and sends a final, time-delayed email that changes the way Cody thinks about herself and her life.
Dealing with Meg’s family, especially her little brother, is the hard part for Cody, especially when they ask her to go to Meg’s apartment and go through and pack up her stuff. Getting a first hand look at Meg’s life, Cody struggles with the idea that she and Meg were not as close as she initially thought. But Cody is unable to understand Meg’s secrecy. So, in turn, she tries to find out as much about Meg as she can and looks for reasons why someone as seemingly invincible as Meg could commit suicide and how Meg could even bring herself to do it.
Throughout this experience, Cody forms relationships with the people who Meg encountered in her final months and discovers that Meg deleted six months worth of emails prior to her death. Looking for someone to blame, Cody delves further into Meg’s life and all the relationships she formed during her freshman year. She tracks down and confronts the boy that broke Meg’s heart in an attempt to find a reason for Meg’s death. She is irritated to discover that he, too, is looking for answers. With his help, and the help of Meg’s computer guru roommate, Cody delves into the holes in Meg’s computer and finds a suicide forum that Meg participated in. Cody finds, disturbingly, that she was right. Someone convinced Meg to kill herself. Cody takes it upon herself to seek justice for Meg and closure for herself.
Cody, as a character, is easy to sympathize with. Her grief is transparent, as is her anger. She is stubborn and a bit blind at times, but her loyalty to Meg reveals her wide capacity for love and compassion. It is obvious that she blames herself for not being a good friend to Meg and that she is mad at Meg for leaving her. As much as this book is about Meg and her death, Cody evolves in her self-awareness, as well as her ability to forgive and grow as she emerges into her adult life.
Author Gayle Forman succeeds, as she usually does, at placing the reader in the story and creating an empathetic link between the characters and the reader. She discusses tough topics such as grief and depression with great clarity. The complexity of the characters is surprisingly true to real life and their individual evolutions keep the plot interesting. For fans of books like “Perks of Being a Wallflower” or “13 Reasons Why,” Forman’s latest is definitely one to consider.