Fab Book Friday: “I Was Here”

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Fab Book Friday is a weekly installment chatting about books — it will include straight-up reviews of books I read as well as thoughts and considerations. This week’s topic is “I Was Here,” by Gayle Forman.

I was unsure about “I Was Here” at first because of its theme: suicide. It’s a book about a girl, Cody, whose best friend Meg kills herself. That’s about all I knew going into it, and I’m not usually a fan of reading a book blind, so to speak. I like to know what I should be expecting.

So it was a slow entrance into the book, even though I’m a huge fan of Gayle Forman herself (“If I Stay” nearly had me gasping and crying on the subway last semester).

And Cody isn’t the kind of character that immediately grips me; I was a little so-so about her, because she seemed bland and content in that blandness. Her defining feature was Meg and Meg’s loss, and I wasn’t her biggest fan.

But like I said — I love Gayle Forman, so I stuck with it. And boy, am I ever glad I did.

The book picks up momentum as Cody starts investigating Meg’s death, meeting her college roommates and a boy with piercing blue eyes named Ben. There are two adorable cats, Pete and Repeat, and in the end, a very strong and powerful message about mental illness.

It’s a book I would recommend to just about anyone, so do yourself a favor and go buy a copy.

So what are we here to chat about today? Let’s talk about suicide in books. Here’s the thing: I don’t know how I feel about it.

That’s weird, right, because I literally write about my depression all the time, every time I turn around, and I’ve even written half a novel on similar lines — Alexis’ best friend, Nicole, kills herself, leaving Alexis to pick up the pieces. So I’m not against it.

At the same time, I understand triggers to a very real degree. I read the Pretties series by Scott Westerfeld (which I loved) and The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (which I adored), but both of them dealt with self-harm. I thought Rowling did a great job of dealing with it, but still — just reading about someone coping in the way I coped made my fingers itch to do the same.

So I understand that what we read really affects us, and sometimes, reading about death, suicide, depression, grief or heartbreak can inspire those feelings in us.

There is a line, though — authors who deal with these subjects need to have the ability to make us feel the emotions without succumbing to them.

I think Forman does that well in “I Was Here.”

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