I quite enjoyed Foreman’s novel If I Stay and its follow up Where She Went, and while she isn’t an author I would have remembered to deliberately look for, when I saw she had another novel, I decided it was worth a shot. I Was Here is told from the perspective of Cody, whose best friend Meg, went off to college and committed suicide at the beginning of her spring semester.
For the most part, Foreman does a good job of creating a complex character in Cody. Cody was already angry with Meg even before the suicide because she felt left behind. Unable to afford college right away, Cody had chosen to attend the local community college and stay with her single mom rather than go to Seattle right away. As happy as she was for Meg, she also felt some resentment and withdrew from her friend, and with Meg now dead, she blames herself. When she goes up to Tacoma to pack up Meg’s things for Meg’s parents, who are like family to Cody, she begins to realize how little she knew of Meg’s life at college. She didn’t know Meg had adopted two kittens, she didn’t know about the musician Meg seems to have hooked up with based on the emails she sees, and it creates all kinds of conflict in Cody. Initially, she views Ben, the musician, as someone else she can blame, but she slowly forms a bound with him over their shared guilt and loss.
Cody needs there to be a reason for Meg’s death, an event or person to blame, something that pushed Meg over the edge. As a result, she spends most of the novel trying to find someone to blame, trying to figure out her friend’s life. While she does discover the existence of suicide “support” (advice) groups, I am not sure how I felt about the resolution of the novel. While I understand Cody’s need for a reason why, I am not sure about one of the events that occurs in the novel. Foreman obviously also understands the futility of what Cody does, and how it doesn’t help her find any answers, but perhaps felt the event needed to occur in the novel to truly underscore the difficulty of finding reasons when these types of things occur.
This novel didn’t move me as much as If I Stay, but I preferred it to 13 Reasons Why, another novel that dealt with teen suicide and ended up partially pissing me off. I especially liked how complex Cody’s reactions are because of her own guilt, and how it explored the question of whether people can ever really know each other and what they are going through.