Thank you NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing an e-Arc in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: 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.
You Were Here is a story of a group of five teens who have all been touched in some way by the accidental death of Jake five years ago. They’ve all graduated high school and this is the last summer before they go their separate ways, yet before they do they have to come to terms with this tragedy that still hangs over them.
The story is told from from the viewpoints of these five friends which adds even more emotion to an already heartbreaking story. The author adds a truly unique flair by having one character illustrate his views through comic book style artwork. Sometimes having multiple povs can interrupt the flow of a story, but that’s not the case here. Each chapter smoothly segues into the next, and by the end of the book I felt as though I was part of this group’s journey. All of these kids are broken in some way, most of all Jaycee who in all honesty is pretty unlikable in the beginning. She’s never gotten over her big brother’s death and this is made even worse by her having witnessed it first hand when she was just twelve-years-old. In the intervening years, she’s basically withdrawn from her friends and has taken up Jake’s daredevil mantle. She’s standoffish and judgemental, but it’s not long before you realize that this is a mask she hides behind so no one will realize what pain she’s in. When these characters first get together they’re all in their own private worlds, and it’s only as they start to open up about their feelings that the healing process begins.
This is a story that examines all the stages of grief in a touching and empathetic way. It’s an unflinching, raw, and intimate look at five young adults who are not only dealing with a tragedy, but also searching for their own personal identities. While heartbreakingly honest, there’s also hope, and the story ends on a high note. The only reason why I’m not giving this 5 stars is because the author adds this little sub-story regarding the brother of one of the characters which I felt was unnecessary and took a little away from the main story. While other books have tackled this topic Cori McCarthy adds an entirely original and refreshing take on it. I believe this is a powerful and unforgettable book that will not only appeal to both teens and adult fans of YA literature but touch them on a visceral level. I’m looking forward to reading more by this inspiring author.