March 01, 2016
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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.
Cori McCarthy's You Were Here begins with a dictionary-ish definition of 'ruin,' and the secondary definition is: 'the god-awful downfall of a person.' This is definitely one of the most apt book beginnings there is. Especially when paired with the first definition regarding the decay of man-made structures.
The book description really made me think that the story was more about Jaycee than the other characters, that she was central while they were secondary. While she is important and there wouldn't be You Were Here without her, it really wouldn't be all that it is without all of the other characters, either.
That statement, 'each with their own brand of dysfunction,' really downplays the troubles You Were Here's characters have. The dynamic between the five of them felt like a mash-up of the quote, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"* and the idea of you being able to say whatever you want about a sibling/friend/significant other but no one else had better. There were times when I couldn't figure out why they were putting up with each other or spending time with each other.
They often didn't seem to like each other - even the two characters that were dating - but you also knew they had each other's backs, no matter what.
They had things in their past that had damaged them. Much of it was known (to readers and the other characters) but some was kept secret. The different ways their painful pasts and/or experiences affected them makes them a really compelling group to read about.
It is hard to explain just why or how I loved You Were Here so much. Some of it was that symmetry of the group exploring ruined, falling apart locations while they were falling apart, maybe even ruined themselves. Some of it was how their pasts were linked, the things that had driven them apart and/or driven them together and each trying to come to terms with the truth and what it means. The characters and the relationships in this novel are absolutely not perfect, they're damaged and screwed up, maybe even detrimental. Yet, somehow that all makes it, in fact, perfect.
(Which, in honor of the book's Natalie I say, 'Most people think it's a Voltaire quote, but actually it's Evelyn Beatrice Hall in a book about Voltaire. You can Google it.')
thank you to the publisher for my review copy, received via NetGalley