On My Bookshelf: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

July 23, 2018

In I Was Here by Gayle Forman, it is impossible not to sympathize with Cody's reaction to her best friend's suicide. Who wouldn't be hurt or angry or even feel guilty? Cody can't believe Meg would do something like this and even worse that she had no idea what Meg was going through. On a trip to clean out Meg's college dorm room, Cody begins to look for reasons why her friend ended up in such a dark place. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
The basic plot from Amazon: 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, and some secrets of his own. 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.
In I Was Here by Gayle Forman, it is impossible not to sympathize with Cody's reaction to her best friend's suicide. Who wouldn't be hurt or angry or even feel guilty? Cody can't believe Meg would do something like this and even worse that she had no idea what Meg was going through. On a trip to clean out Meg's college dorm room, Cody begins to look for reasons why her friend ended up in such a dark place. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.

Why I liked it: In reading I Was Here, it is impossible not to sympathize with Cody's reaction to her best friend's suicide. Who wouldn't be hurt or angry or even feel guilty? Cody can't believe Meg would do something like this and even worse that she had no idea what Meg was going through. On a trip to clean out Meg's college dorm room, Cody begins to look for reasons why her friend ended up in such a dark place. This leads to even more anguish for Cody. Why didn't Meg's roommates know her? How could Ben, the guitar player Meg had a one night stand with, just write her off? While there is little feel good in the book, I actually appreciated that, since there is no happy ending when someone commits suicide. I also liked that Cody's character was far from perfect. In addition to having a whole range of emotions, she took risks and made mistakes, but tried to take a stand and remain loyal to her friend's memory.

Classroom application: Since the novel deals with depression and suicide, it would be a good springboard into research and further discussion of those topics. Teenagers should be able to recognize the signs of both and know who to turn to for help if they or a friend should need it. The novel could also be used as a choice in literature circles themed around mental illness (you can find other suggested titles here).

I'm a big fan of the quote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” (author Wendy Mass) and I Was Here reminded me of that idea. After reading, I would love for students to create a kindness or "take what you need" board, where students post positive messages and words of encouragement for others to take when they need a pick me up. Students could also brainstorm other ways to spread happiness. (Certainly these efforts in no way cancel out serious mental health issues, but we want our students to share hope and positivity, not post encouragement in an online suicide support group.)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of I Was Here for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

You Might Also Like

0 comments