Saturday, February 27, 2016

Book Review: You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

Standalone novel
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: 1st March 2016
Read Date: 21st February 2016
Tagged Under: 2016 read, 2016 favourites, book review, review copy, YA fiction, 5, favourites, romance, contemporary

Book Summary

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 favourite 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.

Book Review

You know a book is good if a) it keeps you up into the early hours of the morning to finish the book, b) you don't regret doing so even if you have work tomorrow and c) long after you've closed the book, your mind still can't stop thinking about it.

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy nailed it on the head in all three categories.

It is the 26th of June of Jaycee's senior year in high school. She has made it past graduation - she has now surpassed her older brother Jake. Jake was a daredevil, who lived for the thrill of dares, dangerous stunts and disappearing by himself at times to abandoned places. As a tribute to her brother, Jaycee goes to Jake's favourite haunts and relives his stunts. This year however, Jaycee and Mik, Jake's childhood friend, are joined by some unlikely accomplices, Natalie, Jaycee's former best friend, Natalie's boyfriend Zach and his friend Bishop. Together, the five of them chase down some of Jake's most daring haunts and along the way, discover pieces of themselves along the way.

I really didn't expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. My initial shallow impression of this book prior to reading was that this is a story of a girl reliving her older brother's stunts with her friends. While that seems like a reasonable synopsis of the novel's blurb, You Were Here goes into so much more than just that. You get to explore why Jaycee is chasing down her brother's ghost and how her life has become following Jake's death. The other members of the unlikely group also have pasts they would rather live without. And this novel is actually about how each of them, through their adventures, discover more than they remember about their past, find ways to confront their present situation and move on into their future beyond their final summer vacation. 

The novel is told through the perspectives of all five members of the gang. Sometimes, when novels jump between narrators, it can be difficult to differentiate who is actually talking. I am pleased to say that this is not a problem in You Were Here. Fascinatingly, each character tells their part of the story in a slightly different format, some as grafitti art, some as comic book strips. I loved how everything juxtaposed together to form a continuous story line. 

Dark themes are prevalent in this story - death, teenage drinking, exploring abandoned ruins in the middle of the night. What I admire about this book is that all of these themes are confronting but realistically done. Unfair comparisons with other books with similar premises end with You Were Here on top because in this novel, there are reasons behind these teenagers' madness. They each have their motives for going on these adventures. They are not doing these things just for kicks or simply to advance the plot.

And the best part of You Were Here? The character development. Each character are so well developed with their pasts, dreams and ghosts. Plus, they each undergo some sort of transformation through these adventures and gain insight not only into themselves but also each other. They are not perfect. None of them are. But through their imperfections, the impact of this story is truly felt.


In conclusion, I am completely blown away by my reading experience of You Were Here. I definitely wasn't expecting such a roller coaster of emotions when I started this story. It is dark, daring and imperfect from beginning to end - and because of all of that, this book truly stays with you, even long after you've finished reading. This is definitely going to be one of my favourite books of this year if not of all-time and even now, I crave to reread it again. I highly recommend this to everyone!

Disclaimer: a complimentary ecopy was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed above are entirely my own and are in no way affected by the source of this book.

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