Alanah Winters

Alanah Winters: Compelling fiction

I was Here (Book Review)...

Spring is definitely here and I finally got around to my to-do-list and cleaning yesterday. After everything was said and done my house looked like a new shiny penny! I even made a delicious honey ham dinner with all the trimmings for my family. Between the hint of freshness and honey-baked goodness in the air, I gave in to my urge to get some reading in. Curling up on my couch with a piping-hot cup of coffee, I became engrossed in Gayle Forman's novel, I was Here.

  I already knew from the synopsis that this novel tackled what many would consider to be taboo because of religious reasons as well as fear of loss. I also had to the privilege to have read her earlier work, If I stay, so needless to say I had my box of tissues handy before I even started.

The author, Gayle Forman didn’t pull any punches as she dove right into the thick of it. The novel felt as if it bundled its storyline and view of life into a messy little visceral bow.

Meg and Cody were inseparable besties since childhood. Meg was the light-hearted do-gooder while Cody was more the cynical-realist. They were seen as a matched set until Meg went off to college and left Cody to fend for herself in their small dead-end town. It didn’t take long before the distance started to weaken their friendship, mostly because Cody refused to deal with the jealousy she felt from Meg making it out without her.

Even from a distance, being included in Meg’s light made Cody’s life bearable; until the day her light was forever extinguished. That was the day Meg decided to commit suicide, leaving all her loved ones to figure how they could live life without her. Being in the throes of grief, Meg’s immediate family sent Cody to go up to Tacoma to gather their daughter’s belongings from college for them.

The engagingly unlikeable heroine Cody makes this heavy issue palatable, even funny at times, while never straying far from the hum of grief and guilt in the background. The collection of characters that fall into Cody’s lap keep the story grounded in the realities of young free-spirited adults’ existences. These characters take turns to help shape the standoffish heroine, no one more so than Ben. Cody’s and Ben’s story is the typical faux-hate turned to love scenario we love so much. Cody is furious after finding out that Ben had slept with Meg and seemingly broke her best friend’s heart months before she had killed herself. However the more often circumstance and fate bring them together, the emotion Ben’s character exudes soon contradicts his persona of the charming dick-rocker that beds girls and dumps them.

After finishing the book Ben showed the most growth and change for the better in my opinion. Cody’s and Ben’s budding relationship was interesting, but again I found myself more emotionally invested in Ben than Cody or Ben-Co. Which is impressive since he was somewhat of a secondary character with the story being told in Cody’s vernacular. However, I don’t think the story wanted me to focus on their relationship anyway. The focus was on the inward journey that only a person can face for themselves which was conveyed and written superbly. Surprisingly enough there was no need for the tissues after all, but it did get me thinking of life and all its potholes as well as just how human and utterly messy it is. In my opinion, I was Here was a very solid read!

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