You Were Here by Cori McCarthy

you were hereSynopsis: 

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 favorite 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.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever feel like I’ve read enough Contemporary YA novels to be sick of them. I mean, how many books can you really read and enjoy about love and friendship, grief and growing up? But then I read a book that’s as touching and poignant as Cori McCarthy’s You Were Here and I remember all of the reasons I love a good contemporary YA story.

This book took me by surprise on a few levels… First, I didn’t know there would be sections told through illustrations. I’m not usually much into comics, but these are absolutely beautiful, and they flow seamlessly into the story. They ended up being one of the reasons I felt the need to go out and buy the book this week after it was released, even though I already had an ARC copy of it. Those illustrations are just that good.

I also loved the POV shifts in this book – Cori McCathy does such a great job of switching perspectives on a dime, and it never felt disjointed or annoying. I liked all of the main characters, which helped, and I found them all to be relatable. It was also a plus that they each had a very distinct voice, so it was easy to distinguish between their characters as the novel progressed.

Jaycee, who is arguably THE main character, is the only character to have her POV be in the first person, and while I’m not generally a fan of first person, I thought it worked for her, and set her apart from the other characters. McCathy has a very John-Green-esque ability to shift back and forth between first and third person without breaking down the story (it made me crazy jealous, and I could think of a few writers who would benefit from that skill).

There are some pretty messed-up things at play in You Were Here, but the heavy subjects are balanced out by moments of genuine connection with just the right amount of lighthearted humor. It’s a refreshing read, and one that left me thinking about grief, life, and the power of authenticity and truth in our lives.

Jaycee and Natalie were my favorite pair of the group – I loved watching them work out their difference and try to piece their stale friendship back together. I’ve been there – it’s so easy to ruin a friendship, to let time tear you apart from those you were once closet to – and it can be awkward and uncomfortable to re-forge old ties. But in the end, at least in my experience, it’s often worth it.

The lagging relationship between Natalie and Jake provides an interesting parallel to the flourishing relationship burgeoning between Jaycee and Mik. It was interesting to watch the rise and fall of those duos and see how they all interconnected. The moving pieces are vast in this book – there are break-ins, deserted (potentially haunted) locations, and all kinds of angst and hidden wisdom.

In the end, one main question remains: does the truth truly set you free?

Rating: 4.7/5 stars 

Have y’all read You Were Here? Did you like it? Are you a daredevil or more of a scaredy-cat? (I’m a scaredy-cat homebody for sure!)

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