I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.You Were Here by Cori McCarthy
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 1, 2016
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Illustrator: Sonia Liao
Grief turned Jaycee into a daredevil, but can she dare to deal with her past?
On the anniversary of her daredevil brother's death, Jaycee attempts to break into Jake's favorite hideout—the petrifying ruins of an insane asylum. Joined by four classmates, each with their own brand of dysfunction, Jaycee discovers a map detailing her brother's exploration and the unfinished dares he left behind.
As a tribute to Jake, Jaycee vows to complete the dares, no matter how terrifying or dangerous. What she doesn't bargain on is her eccentric band of friends who challenge her to do the unthinkable: reveal the parts of herself that she buried with her brother.
When Netgalley sent me an email promoting this book, I knew I had to get my hands on it. They described it as a book for Lauren Oliver fans—aka me. And after reading it, that description is pretty dead-on. But You Were Here by Cori McCarthy is also very much it’s own unique thing. And it was a really cool reading experience for me.
This book is about grief. That basically covers the major themes and plot. Jake died in a terrible accident…and he left his friends and family in his wake, not sure how to handle his loss. And this book explores five of those people—Jaycee, Mik, Zach, Natalie, and Bishop. Jaycee’s probably the “main” protagonist as Jake’s sister, but the others are suffering just as much, even five years after his death.
But this book was beautiful. I thought the writing was superb, and each character was so intricate and unique. The chapters switch off between them, and it was so interesting to see how they think and interact and deal with the tough stuff that life hands to them. They were all unique and they all had flaws and they all were so real that I just wanted to be their friend and give them a hug. Even though I don’t really relate to any of them personally. And I think to master that is a true feat. To honestly represent grief in five so very different characters is beautiful and wonderfully done in this book.
And each chapter and perspective was very distinct. Bishop, for instance, was an artist, so each of his “chapters” was simply one of his pieces that he works on throughout the story. He kind of leaves his mark everywhere he goes, so his parts of the book show those. And the different formats that are throughout, the distinct voices, really help us get to know the characters even better. And I super loved that.
I think my favorite part might have been the Mik chapters. After Jake’s death, Mik goes selectively mute…which would be difficult to represent in a novel. So they changed things up and his chapters were illustrated in a graphic novel-type format. And it was awesome. Truly. What better way to represent how he thinks and feels than to do it visually? Man, I loved them.
That’s what regret does well and grief does better: rips out your energy and leaves you feeling each and every heartbeat.
‘Do you guys know what a Gordion knot is?’ Bishop asked. ‘Some people think that it represnts time. A tangle of sorts, but basically, it implies that anything that happened is still happening. That the past is never gone. The future already exists. Spirals upon spirals.’ He cleared his throat. ‘So really, everyone who was ever here is still here. In a sense.’
So, for me, it was the characters that made me love this story. Each and every one was so utterly real and believable. Each was so unique. Each was flawed, but relatable. And each was dealing with a grief that’s common to many around the world every day. This is a story of family and friendship, growing and loving, learning to deal with life’s hardships and move forward to a better day. This was a beautiful story, and I completely recommend it to you.