Book Review: YOU WERE HERE by Cori McCarthy (March 2016)

DISCLAIMER: I was given an ARC of this book for review purposes.

I’m choosing to review this book on my blog for very specific reasons.

There’s some incredible innovation happening in YA novels of late – I know prose/graphic combinations aren’t new, per se – immediately, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Why We Broke Up,  and Chopsticks come to mind – but I’ve never seen the two mediums handled so distinctly.  With such conspicuous differentiation, the line between complete failure and raging success is very thin. McCarthy finds herself on the right side of that line.

10435922_692237230910465_519510927501019724_n_0Multiple, distinct viewpoints, thrilling plot twists, and an engaging narrative contribute to this book’s appeal.  Although I don’t see it becoming an immediate commercial favorite, I know it’ll find many readers who appreciate the raw honesty and innovative approach to grief depicted by its main character. Although I admit I didn’t quite care for the characters at the beginning of the novel, I found myself rooting for them by the end.

Jaycee Strangelove struggles with the death of her older brother and attempts to live with the same reckless abandon he exhibited during his life. Her determination leads her (and four of her closest “friends”) to creepy abandoned sites and gut-wrenching, daredevil stunts.

The novel is a major win for inclusivity – there are so many reasons why it should be lauded as an excellent example of diversity in YA, but my favorite is the incorporation of a selectively-mute college student, whose viewpoint makes up the “graphic novel” part of the book.  I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about selective mutism before reading this book, but kudos to McCarthy for finding such an awesome way to represent it.

YOU WERE HERE is a gripping narrative unlikely to disappoint any gen-Y eager to revisit the trials and tribulations of young adulthood (which is like, no one, but you will be better for it. I promise.) I’ve been on the lookout for novels like this for two reasons: 1. I’m in the midst of writing my own contemporary YA and it helps to get me in the late-high school mindset, and 2. YA literature will always, always, ALWAYS be important for a multitude of reasons too vast to cover in this mere book review. READ IT.

With its candor, YOU WERE HERE not only meets the criteria, but it often exceeds it.

Don’t get me wrong – This isn’t a novel you spend years thinking about.  It’s not a novel you recommend to anyone looking for a good read.  It’s most definitely not a novel you wear thin by repeated readings.

But it’s a gem in its own right; a raw and honest depiction of young adulthood and the process of dealing with a sibling’s death, a rare glimpse into the life of an ordinary teenager on the cusp of adulthood.

And for that, it ultimately triumphs.

Find it where books are sold on March 1, 2016.



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