You Were Here

by Cori McCarthy
Reviewed by SA

I picked up this book because of was fascinated by the blurb: but also captivated by the cover. But the idea of urban exploration in the wake of tragedy sounded incredibly gripping, and like a fun read: I was surprised by how much this book actually was.


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.

When a boy dies in a stupid accident after taking a dare, the lives of those around him are shifted. His sister. His friends. The people who saw him snap his neck and the people who didn’t. Everyone is affected. Jaycee, his sister, is grieving hard. As she reaches the age where her brother died, she decides to take on his dares herself, trying to bring him back. But what she gets is something different entirely.

It’s interesting to see a book around grief take place so long after the death, and even more interesting to see how the novel evolves to be more than just that. It’s a novel about friendship, about hard truths, and moving on from the past rather than clinging to it.

That being said, I didn’t really like the characters. At least, not all of them. Jaycee seemed a little extreme in how she took her brother’s death. It’s probably understandable, but it was borderline creepy: with her wanting to take on those dares, it was as if she had no regard for her own life. Which kinda contradicts the whole “I managed to survive past graduation” thing.

And I wasn’t particularly fond of Natalie, either. While she had the one of the best opportunities for growth and a deeper storyline than the others (SPOILER ALERT – She SAW the accident but kept it secret all these years) it wasn’t fully realized. I didn’t feel like she grew: instead I felt like she turned into a walking cliche, just trying to get her friend to make out with a guy.

It was a huge surprise to me when I realized I liked Zach most: his character growth is impressive, and I don’t want to give anything away. But I felt like HE started off as the cliche and then turned into a three dimensional character. By the end of the novel, I felt as if he was the most grown up out of all of them. Plus, my favorite quote of the book comes from him.

Which is not to say I didn’t like Mik or Bishop: Bishop, the heartbroken artist, and Mik, the selective mute college student, were both interesting characters as well. I didn’t really get the whole relationship between Jaycee and Mik, as she fell for him before he really uttered a word to her, but it was still believable.

When I finished this book, I realized what I liked the most about it was HOW it was told, and not the story itself. The perspectives are incredibly unique: yes, you have first person, and third person as well, but you also have artwork (Bishop) and graphic novel (Mik) perspectives, which I found incredibly cool. I mean, an entire person’s perspective seen through their artwork? It’s a fantastic idea, and I’m so glad it worked here. It’s what brought my rating up to four stars.

I also loved the fact that all the places they went for Urban exploration are REAL places, and you can look them up online… or go yourself if you’re in the area. Honestly, I’d really love to. They’re fascinating places and sound awesome when described in the novel.

I feel like there’s a lot more to say about this book, but I’ll keep it at that. It’s a very fun read and will certainly be a great hit.

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