Published by Viking Children's Group: An Imprint of Penguin Group on January 27, 2015
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.
Before, Cody and Meg were inseparable, always doing everything together and eventually became known as the pod. Then Meg goes away to college on a full scholarship, and Cody is left in their small town with only hopes of moving to Seattle to be with her best friend again. Then things change, and Cody is no longer sure if she wants to go see Meg and cancels on her multiple times. Out of the blue Cody gets a delayed email from her best friend telling her goodbye and that she no longer wants to be a part of existence.
“How can a person do that? How can they make a decision like that, write an email like that, and then just carry on? If you can do that, can’t you keep moving on?”
She’s thrown for a loop, and when Meg’s distraught parents ask her to travel to the small college town where Meg’s new life was supposed to begin not end, she goes. When she gets there she finds out things about Meg that every best friend should have known but didn’t. At the beginning of Cody’s journey to discover what would make her Meg want to die, she meets Ben. What I enjoyed most about Ben is that I couldn’t decide if he was going to be an important character or not. He is a mystery hiding under a façade when Cody meets him, and that’s how he appears to the reader as well. Her journey with Ben soon becomes as much of a part of the story as the journey to find the Meg she new and the Meg she didn’t know existed.
After all of Meg’s affairs are in order, and Cody is already back in town, there is something about the goodbye note that makes Cody question. Upon further digging, she is engrossed in a sickening world that she didn’t know even existed and horrified by means people will go to in order to escape living. Along with Ben, the boy she hates to like, she discovers more about herself than she thought was possible. Even though she had previously gone through life thinking she was a stray, living vicariously through the Garicas, she becomes her own person.
Cody’s journey to find peace about why Meg chose to die, what influenced her to hate living, is beautiful. I have never been one to read books about suicide, but I’m not sure if that is exactly what this book is. While one life may have ended, the one trying to find why not to live learns what it means to live. The things that Cody goes through symbolize standing on her own two feet when her crutch—that she thought she needed—is now broken. And most importantly it is about forgiveness. Forgiving herself, forgiving Meg, and forgiving Ben for the part he plays and will play in the story, because some journeys are not meant to take alone.
The world will not stop moving, nor the sun stop shinning, so moving on and cherishing the things that are given to us is what makes life so special.
“…I learned in physics that the universe is expanding at a rate of, like, forty-five miles a second, but it sure…doesn’t feel that way when you’re standing still.”
So you have to keep going.