“I failed her in life. But I won’t fail her in death.”
Gayle Forman is one of my favorite authors. Just One Day and Just One Year were two of my favorite summer reads last year, so when I heard that she had a new book coming out, I was ecstatic. However, it was a bit different than I expected. I guess I was hoping for the lighter tone of Just One Day, but that was without reading the synopsis. This book deals with some extremely heavy stuff, particularly teen suicide. It’s not a light read, and took me awhile to finish it, due to the dark tone. However, in the end, I really did like the book.
Cody’s life is thrown into a tailspin the day that her best friend Meg kills herself. They had been inseparable, the typical best friend duo, despite the fact that Meg had left for college while Cody stayed home. That’s probably why Cody never even saw the suicide coming. Cody’s life changes even more when she goes to Meg’s college to pack up her belongings as a favor to Meg’s parents. There she finds a whole new world that Meg had never mentioned in her calls home. There’s Tree, Meg’s rude hippie roommate, Alice, another one of Meg’s roommates, who befriends Cody, and Harry, the computer geek. More importantly, there’s Ben McCallister, a standoffish guitarist that Cody initially blames Meg’s suicide on. However, after the discovery of an encrypted file on Meg’s computer, that changes. With a little help from Harry, Cody begins there is a lot more to Meg’s death than meets the eye.
I have to admit, I almost quit reading a few times. In past books, Gayle Forman has created complex, heavy romances, that leave a lasting impression. By her standards, this one was extremely cliche. Ben is the player who sleeps with multitudes of girls, and Cody is the innocent virgin. There’s the time she has to stay at his house overnight, a road-trip, and all of sudden he feels he needs to change so he can get the girl. Because it’s Gayle Forman though, the cliche story is salvaged. She manages to add depth to the cliche, and luckily the the story revolves around Meg and Cody’s friendship and Meg’s suicide, and not the romance.
One thing that this novel deals with is the morbid curiosity of one’s own death. I’ll try to explain this without giving any spoilers. Due to certain events following Meg’s death, Cody enters into a world that is extremely obsessed with this morbid curiosity, and as a result begins contemplating her own death. It’s inevitable, if you think about it. I was actually very concerned for Cody at one point, and was hoping this wouldn’t be one of those books that rips your heart out (don’t worry, it doesn’t). There is a very, very thin line between contemplating your own death and having suicidal thoughts. Cody dances dangerously along this line, and I too found myself drawn into her thoughts. The change from curiosity to suicidal thoughts is extremely subtle and gradual, yet sudden too, almost as if you’re walking down a gently sloping hill and then all of a sudden fall off of an unseen ledge. It was actually kind of scary, and one of the reasons it took me a few tries to finish the book.
While the romantic relationship in the book was cliche and forgettable, their was one relationship worth mentioning, and that is the one between Cody and her mother. After years of a relationship that has fallen apart due to lack of communication, the two slowly begin to talk again. Ironically enough, one of the reasons for the revival of their relationship is Ben. When he breaks her heart, its her mother who comes to her rescue. That moment is the real turning point, and I was really happy to see them begin to bond again.
I’d give this book a 3/5. If you’re looking for a romance, this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a light, happy read, this book is NOT for you. If you’re looking for a story of friendship, this is NOT FOR YOU. However, if you’re looking for a story that explores to dark world of teen suicide, the redemption of a mother and daughter’s relationship, and a story of coming to terms with the loss of a term, all written in Gayle Forman’s poignant style, then this story is definitely for you. It is a good book, it just has darker themes, and is lacking the usually poignant romance found in a Forman story. The link to its Amazon page can be found here.
The cover gets a 3/5. I’m not a huge fan of the color scheme, and it’s kind of dreary. That makes sense though, considering the theme of the book. I do like her red jacket though, it brings attention to the character.