Review by Larissa Banitt
Everything can change in a day. Jaycee learned that when her brother died in an accident mere hours after he graduated from high school. In the aftermath, her best friend abandons her and what is left of her family falls apart, with her father shutting down and her mother retreating to a mental institution. Years later, on her own graduation day during an unexpected reunion with friends, she begins to see how that accident changed their lives forever too.
You Were Here is a story that is carried by character and relationship development. Cori McCarthy breathes complexity and nuance into her characters’ every thought and action, and shows how they grapple with their friends’ imperfections while trying to sort out their own. The action of the plot takes a backseat to the development of relationships and growth within the characters themselves. And despite at times painting some of the characters in an irritating, unfavorable light, McCarthy still manages to evoke a sense of sympathy for the invisible hurts they all carry.
This book was also a fascinating read because of its structure. Each chapter alternates between the five main characters’ points of view: three of them in writing, two of them in graphics. This really enhances the overall telling of the story because it compliments how each of the characters communicates. For example, of the two characters whose stories are told though a graphic novel style, one is an artist who expresses himself through his work, and the other is a selective mute who, for the most part, communicates through gestures and expressions.
You Were Here is a complex, emotional rollercoaster of a story about love, loss, and transition. Its memorable cast of characters, sense of adventure, and unflinching exploration of difficult topics is reminiscent of John Green, and the interplay between writing and graphics will appeal to fans of Brian Selznick. I recommend it for readers of contemporary Young Adult novels across the board.
Edited by Valerie Carroll