Book Review: You Were Here Author: Cori Mccarthy

WARNING: SPOILERS INCLUDED IN REVIEW

This book is probably one of my all-time favorites. It’s very rare that I read a book done in 3+ points of view without it getting confusing. Moreover, the brief comic strip-like chapters used to represent Mik’s point of view were a refreshing change of pace that were clearly illustrated and did an excellent job of relating the story’s events and the character’s feelings. These brief chapters also brought more dimension to Mik’s character by cementing the fact that he rarely talks or shows emotion; the pictures showed his emotions, and the lack of internal dialogue kept the mystery of his character alive. Mccarthy did a brilliant job of bringing each character to life. She made us angry with them, made us want more for them, and ultimately made us love all of them- Bishop and his all-consuming broken heart, Natalie and her OCD, Mik and his social anxiety, Zach and his childish coping mechanisms, and of course, Jaycee and her sharp-edged grief. Throughout this book, the reader gets to examine the intangible and nearly impossible to explain concept of grief. Through uniting the characters on the fourth anniversary of Jake’s death and in the summer following, the author not only shows us struggle and pain, but she also shows us redemption and maybe the most important thing of all- hope.

This story centers around each character’s grief and life four years after Jaycee’s older brother, Jake, takes a dare while extremely intoxicated and ends up snapping his neck and dying. Jake was known for being a reckless daredevil that would take any dare given to him and often took it upon himself to break into abandoned buildings and film dangerous stunts. In the wake of his untimely demise, his little sister, Jaycee, has adopted many of Jake’s habits, thoughtlessly taking risks in order to feel closer to her brother. As the story progresses, we see love begin to blossom between her and Mik, one of her late brother’s best friends. The love between them develops slowly and carefully, and is often set back by emotional and interpersonal difficulties, which I loved because of how true to life it was. Jaycee, in addition to becoming more of a risk taker, has also adopted her brother’s vicious streak, albeit unintentional. She celebrates truth- absolute and brutal truth, which serves to cause division between her and her friends, in addition to her condemnation of lies and the people who indulge in them.

Mik, or Ryan, as we later learn he likes to be called, is much more than Jaycee’s love interest and Jake’s former best friend. Throughout the novel, we learn that he has difficulty speaking to others, especially those he really cares about or feels nervous around (like Jaycee) due to social anxiety.  Towards the very end of the story, he admits to Jaycee that he was the one who dared Jake to do the back flip off the swing set that cost him his life, although Mik also explains that he never thought Jake would get hurt- they’d both done that stunt dozens of times- and that he just wanted Jake to leave him alone because he’d been giving him a hard time for his social anxiety related issues.

Natalie, Jaycee’s best friend before Jake’s accident, is one of the other point of view in the story.  As a stickler for the rules with a hero complex, she holds herself accountable for not stopping Jake’s accident. The stress and grief from witnessing her older brother figure die led to what appears to be a development of OCD.  Her internal monologue is probably the most fascinating of all the characters, as she knows what she wants and who she wants to be, but is too terrified to act upon those desires. In a way, I think that this not only makes her Jaycee’s foil, but the most relatable of all the characters.  It’s rare that we find the courage to reach out for what we want, and Natalie’s relationship with Zack, is something we all find ourselves experiencing at one point or another. Their relationship is unhealthy, with them both wanting to someone they can turn to, while one person (Natalie) is consciously aware that she doesn’t really love him and that his feelings for her are genuine.

Zack’s character is complicated and takes a long time to unravel. His childish behavior is simply an escape from an abusive home life. His father verbally abused his mother, which led to a divorce and to Zack, his older brother, and younger sister growing up far too quickly. Zack’s saving grace is his little sister, who’s always there for him when Natalie breaks his heart and consistently offers good advice. His older brother, however, is a living nightmare, who is physically and verbally cruel to Zack and their little sister. At one point, after Zack and Natalie break up yet again, Natalie hooks up with his brother. Eventually, the truth is outed by Jaycee, who was angry with Natalie for abandoning her after Jake’s death. Zack and Natalie reconcile but mutually agree to part ways at the end of the book.

Finally, the last notable character is Bishop, whose profound graffiti artwork is featured throughout the novel. It is the his work that inspires the title, in addition to Jaycee and the group chasing after the places Jake had been and explored. The inspiration for his artwork lies in his broken heart after his girlfriend, a seemingly neurotic foreign exchange student named Marrakesh, coldly shatters his heart right before she boards her plane home. Bishop himself never even knew Jake, but his grief after losing someone he loved forever translates well into the context of the group.

Mccarthy does a stellar job of condemning and redeeming each character throughout the story. She makes each entirely three dimensional. She walks us through loss and love and finding ourselves after surviving tragedy. After journeying through Mccarthy’s world, the reader not only gains a better understanding of grief, but of themselves.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Read, Written, and Reviewed by: Scarlett Smith

 

 

 

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