Tag Archives: Friendship

You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

Death can blind us to a person’s past and push our imagination into an unrealistic “what if” future for the one we lost. When all we have left are our memories, the fear of losing them can send us running back to places where it all began.

youwerehere

Jake was the dare devil of the family. He was forever pulling crazy stunts, searching out abandoned places to explore, even playing around with drugs. He would accept any dare but the last one cost him his life. Jaycee, his sister, was there. She watches as he falls, sees him lying on the ground with his head at an impossible angle.

It’s been five years since she saw Jake fall to his death. And tonight she will meet up with Mik, her brother’s old friend to explore one of Jake’s favorite abandoned buildings. These days she rarely talks to anyone. She has shut everyone out but Mik and he only shows up once a year on the anniversary of Jake’s death. She has never forgiven Natalie, her best friend, for deserting her after Jake died.

Jaycee is now where Jake was the night he died. She’s graduated from high school. And while she should be focusing on college, she dresses in his clothes, sleeps in his room, all she can think about is Jake. It’s like she’s lost something she can’t find and is constantly looking, searching, hoping to finally understand why all of this has happened. Hell-bent on retracing Jake’s journeys through the abandoned places, to see where he had been, Jaycee will even try out some of his old stunts, trying to unearth him in the only way she can, to walk in his shoes.

But she won’t do it alone. Her friends won’t let her.

Mik, who hasn’t said a word to her since Jake died, is there as always to watch over her when she ventures to these ruins. His secret keeps him silent.

Natalie, the practical one, hides behind the rules, afraid not to be perfect. But she can’t escape the secret she has buried for the last five years, the real reason she and Jaycee are no longer friends – Zack.  Zack, Natalie’s on again off again boyfriend, chases the bottle to keep down his own fears of not being good enough, of an uncertain future, and the possibility of losing Natalie when she leaves for college.

And then there’s Bishop, a friend with the soul of a poet.  Bishop is trying to find his way out the dark place he is in after he crashed and burned when the girl at the center of his universe left him behind.

Told in alternating voices, we walk with these four teens as they try to decide just what is going happen now that school is over. Following in Jake’s footsteps, daring to tread in places long abandoned by man, this dangerous environment brings out the best and worst in each of them. Old feuds will arise, the fear of being left behind, uncertainties that come with change and in the end maybe a little peace.

This coming of age story blends art and words together in glorious black and white, while it sets the scene and brings the story to life.  There are dysfunctional families in several shapes and forms, drinking and some sexual content. But there is real love and friendship here, because in spite of everything these teens care about each other. The descriptions of the abandoned ruins make you feel like you are there. Mik’s point of view is told almost totally in graphic novel form, even some of Bishop’s poetry is displayed in urban graffiti. A tale that blends art and words together in glorious black and white, it sets the scene and brings their story to life.

For me this was a hard look at a scary time, the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood, wrapped around a story that is as realistic and heartbreaking as some of things today’s teens will face. This is also an adventure, exploring those places man has left behind in our rush to move forever forward. As these four teens will see, sometimes it takes stepping back into the past before we can move forward. Besides some of these places are wonderfully creepy, as are this parts of this tale.

Formats Available:  Book 

Reviewed by Katy, Shawnee Branch

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been Gone

When you’re scared of taking risks everyday life obstacles can seem overwhelming.  That was what life was like for Emily.  She didn’t like being the center of attention or going to parties or really anything involving people.  She liked cross county because she loved running with her thoughts and being alone.  That was before Sloane moved to town.  Sloane was brave and vibrant and exhilarating- everything Emily was too afraid to be.  Emily loved to be known as “Sloane’s friend” even to people who had known Emily her whole life but had just met Sloane.  It didn’t bother Emily that Sloane got all the guys, all the attention, and all the glory.  Emily liked being boring.  But then Sloane vanishes without a trace.

Emily shows up like always to Sloane’s house and finds no one is there.  Just as quickly as she had come into Emily’s life two years earlier Sloane was gone.  The only sign that Sloane had existed at all was a cryptic letter which shows up at Emily’s house a week after Sloane disappears.  It isn’t a ransom note or an explanation of what happened, it’s a list.  A list of several things Emily feels quite sure she will never be brave enough to do such as pick apples at night, kiss a stranger, and go skinny dipping!

As the days tick by and Emily’s perfectly planned summer is ruined by loss and confusion she makes a decision that completing the list might bring her closer to finding the truth of what happened to her best friend.  Emily starts the list thinking it will help her find Sloane but in an endearing, coming of age and self-acceptance story, what Emily really find’s is herself.  It is easy to live in someone else’s shadow if it means never having to take risks.  But what is a life worth having if you’re not living it?

Since You’ve Been Gone is a wonderful novel full of rich social themes – friendship, self-identity, self-discovery, and self-acceptance.  While marketed toward teens this novel is an important reminder to us at any age about being kind to ourselves and others.  Emily is afraid to be vulnerable to others but it keeps her closed off to a life full of possibilities.  She finds braveness in a friend who appears to be the epitome of everything Emily wishes she was – but we all know appearances are often misleading.  So does Emily complete the list?  Does she find Sloane and learn why her best friend disappeared over night?  It’s well worth the read if you’d like to find out.

Formats Available: Book (Regular Print)

Reviewed by Lindsay, Southwest Branch