Friday, May 17, 2019

Book Review: You Were Here

Title: You Were Here
Author: Cori McCarthy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Source: Borrowed from Library

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.

My Review

When this book was first being promoted in 2016, I really wanted to read it. I definitely thought it would make the list of books that I read then, but for some reason, I ever got around to it. Flash forward to 2019. I had a few weeks in between my spring and summer classes, and I found myself having not read a book for myself for a really long time. It just so happened that the school library where I work had two copies, so I borrowed one and began reading. 

The night of and the months following her high school graduation, Jaycee grapples with time and grief. She's already lived a longer life than her older brother, Jake, who died tragically on the night of his own high school graduation. With that, comes Jaycee dealing with her own mortality and facing the people who abandoned her after Jake's passing. Will she learn to let people in again, or will her dare-devil ways get the best of her?

Cori McCarthy takes a truly emotional subject - death - and writes about it from multiple teenage perspectives. While the first few chapters are hard to get into because of their point of views - first person for the main character, Jaycee, omniscient for Natalie and Zach, graffiti for Jake, and comic/graphic novel style for Mik - it eventually all comes together and weaves all the pieces together to tell the tale of Jaycee and the night of her brother's untimely death. 

While I enjoyed the story behind this novel, I felt kind of "meh" about it after I had finished it. It's definitley not a favorite, and probably won't be a re-read for me, but I'm glad I read it. There were a lot of great aspects to it, but there were also a lot of predictable elements in the novel, so I felt like there wasn't a lot to keep my attention. 

However, McCarthy's writing shines through her character, Jaycee. It's not every day that you can find a character as captivating as her. Most of the time, she's cold and unlikeable, which is always alright by me, and then there are times that she's so vulnerable that you want to reach into the book and embrace her with your arms. There are just so many layers to Jaycee, and I really think McCarthy could have written another 100 pages or so to keep peeling back more and more of Jaycee. If there were ever a sequel to this book, I'd read it just to figure out more about her. In a way, her story reminded me a little bit of my cousin's, so I felt like she was a friend. 

All in all, You Were Here is a pretty good book. I feel like anyone who has experienced a traumatic death could relate to this story and really feel like it's something that they can relate to in one way or another. I also think anyone heading off to college could benefit from reading this book because of how it deals with the finality of high school and the uncertainty of the future. Cori McCarthy's characters and the artwork in the book really tell a story that's different than a lot of books out there for young adults, so I applaud her for bringing something new to the table.

Cori McCarthy is the author of six young adult books, four released
and two on the way, as well as a forthcoming nonfiction picture book about Kahlil Gibran. Cori is an Irish-Lebanese American who resides in New England and spends most of their time playing guitar, reading poetry, and raising their son. Like many of their characters, they are a member of the LGBTQ+ community.

Cori started writing at the age of thirteen. After earning a BA in Creative Writing from Ohio University, focusing in memoir writing and poetry, they completed UCLA’s Professional Program in Screenwriting and earned an MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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