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.
I have SO. MUCH. LOVE. for this book!! You Were Here somehow manages to be heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time, an emotional roller coaster that you just can’t get off of.
Told in alternating POVs, You Were Here follows five teenagers on a quest to complete a series of dares left unfinished by Jaycee’s dead brother, and find themselves in the process. I loved this storytelling method: every chapter is seen from a different character’s POV – and the narrative style changes accordingly. Jaycee’s chapters are all narrated in 1st person, Natalie’s and Zach’s in 3rd, while Mik’s are expressed as graphic novels and Bishop’s reproduce his urban art. For me, this was an incredibly original and engaging way to keep the story working even with 5 different points of view, which usually makes it very confusing for me to follow.
I actually really liked getting to know all these characters, and by the end of the book I was feeling them a little bit like my friends, too. Each of them have their own problems and their own dysfunctions, from Jaycee’s inability to cope with her brother’s death to other characters’ mental health issues or situations of family abuse. I think the author did a great job of portraying these difficulties, without trivialising or stigmatising them, and really conveys the message that ultimately, the strength to move on from difficulties can only be found within you, but having good friends and people who love you around you definitely makes this process a whole lot easier. The character development is also pretty amazing. No one stays the same after what they go through together, and they all come out of the book extremely different from how they got in.
This is a fairly intense book, and the themes it deals with are by no means light, but still there are some light-hearted moments and some great banter. And that ultimately makes a lot of sense, because that’s the way life goes: for every bleak moment of sadness or outright desperation, there is always the chance of a positive, light and happy time with our loved ones. It doesn’t often happen to me to find a contemporary that keeps me truly hooked, but this one I just couldn’t put down. I’m certain that You Were Here will stay with me for a long time, and it’s one I could actually re-read pretty soon.