First sentence: “I had been driving all afternoon, trying to get lost.”
How do you live past graduation when your brother wasn’t able to?
Jaycee Strangelove struggles with that (and much more), but she has a great group of people pushing her to live for herself. You Were Here shows us the lives that had been affected when Jake Strangelove died after performing a dangerous stunt five years ago.
This book was..unexpected. In the most excellent way possible. I was initially seduced by the mixed media storytelling, and I stayed enthralled because the writing told an engaging and heartfelt story about grief, hope, changes, friendship, and so much more.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOU WERE HERE
- You Were Here weaves between multiple points of view.
Five characters. Five points of view. All telling their story after Jake’s death years later. You get a first person, two third person, a poetic graffiti-focused one, and a graphic novel panels POV. The narrative moves seamlessly between these point of views, and it’s done with a great care.
- The characters may be hard to like at first, but they will certainly win you over.
You Were Here follows:
- Jaycee Strangelove, Jake’s sister, who watched him snap his neck after he performed a dangerous stunt and is on a self-destructive path trying to remember her brother,
- Natalie Cheng, Jaycee’s former best friend, who’s a Type A personality, know-it-all, and feels guilty about the way she treated Jaycee after Jake’s death,
- Zach Ferris, Natalie’s boyfriend, who doesn’t have much going for him except Natalie and tends to drink away his problems,
- (Eric) Bishop, Zach’s best friend, who had been left heartbroken by a foreign exchange student and is constantly moping around with his graffiti,
- Mikivikious (aka Mik), the dreamy mysterious best friend of Jake, who’s a selective mute and visits Jaycee every year on the day of Jake’s death.
When you meet these characters, the things they do or say may annoy you (like Jaycee’s recklessness and Natalie with her uptightness and Type A personality), but they grow on you as they begin to confront their fears and their grief. I love seeing how brutally honest Jaycee can be even if it makes people uncomfortable, and how these characters act around each other. Remember, even if you end up not liking these characters, unlikeable characters make the best stories.
The book deals with death, grief, and new changes, and how to make amends and live again.
Death can change people, and that’s what it does to these five characters. Graduating high school throws them into new life changes they aren’t ready for.
For instance, a once happy girl who used to have her own interests is now losing herself in her brother’s shadow. A grieving Jaycee struggles with the fleeting memory of her dead brother, and tries to recreate his stunts by walking in her brother’s shoes to feel close to him—even if that leads her to do reckless stunts that could kill her like her brother.
A former best friend doesn’t know how to be there for her best friend and just stops being her friend. Natalie struggles with her own guilt of leaving Jaycee to deal with her grief all those years ago as well the unpredictable future that’s been paved for her, and tries to make amends with Jaycee before she leaves for college in the Fall.
And there’s so much more from them and the other characters.
These characters embark on a life-changing adventure with the people they least expected—a group of former friends—and it’s so beautiful to see them push each other to face what they cannot see in front of them. You can see how these characters has grown by the end.
- The graphic novel panels are perfect.
Why create words when illustrations will do? The illustrations are perfect for the point in view that it’s told from—Mik, a selective mute. I love it! At first glance, I was a bit apprehensive and disappointed that there wasn’t an equal number of graphic novel panels to the traditional storytelling, but I’m happy to say that all my apprehension and disappointment disappeared once I read the story. The amount of the graphic novel panels is just right, and it’s a great way of expressing a character’s point of view who has trouble expressing himself with words.
- The romance is just the right kind of burn.
SO INTO IT. I have never squealed so much at a romance in…ages. That’s a pretty good sign that I loved it. It was just so darn cute, and it used romantic tropes I love—initially unrequited love and childhood friends to lover. It was done in a way that burned beautifully, allowing for these characters to grow. That Mik, guys. *sighs* This is how you create a romance I will like.
- All places mentioned are places in Ohio!
From the Ridges’s TB Ward to the Moonville Tunnel, they’re based on real places that still exists (or once did)! This book’s almost like a nostalgia love letter to those places that I assume used to be Cori McCarthy’s stomping ground. The characters find Jake’s map of places he had done his stunts, and they go looking for it to see where Jake left his mark. I loved seeing the characters explore these places that is full of so much history.
Do I recommend You Were Here? YES! You Were Here is a true gem that made me appreciate the loveliness of the writing, the “unlikeable” characters, and the way the graphic novel panels were woven in. This book was just so well done, and Cori McCarthy deserves praise for pulling a spectacular book from her bag of awesomeness.