Title: We Were Never Here
Author: Jennifer Gilmore
Series: No Series – Standalone
Published: June 14th, 2016
Rating: ★★★★☆(4 out of 5)The summary of We Were Never Here from Goodreads:
In this exquisitely written, emotionally charged young adult debut, Jennifer Gilmore explores the bond that is formed between a hospitalized girl and the secretly troubled boy she falls in love with.
Did you know your entire life can change in an instant?
For sixteen-year-old Lizzie Stoller that moment is when she collapses, out of the blue. The next thing she knows she’s in a hospital with an illness she’s never heard of.
But that isn’t the only life-changing moment for Lizzie. The other is when Connor and his dog, Verlaine, walk into her hospital room. Lizzie has never connected with anyone the way she does with the handsome, teenage volunteer. However, the more time she spends with him, and the deeper in love she falls, the more she realizes that Connor has secrets and a deep pain of his own . . . and that while being with him has the power to make Lizzie forget about her illness, being with her might tear Connor apart.
As someone who spends a lot of her time in hospitals, the idea behind We Were Never Here really drew me in. I’ve met many volunteers, and their dogs, over the years. I was a little worried, to be honest, that my wealth of knowledge about hospitals and illness would turn me off the story, though, since I tend to be a bit picky about details surrounding hospital care. There were a few minor details that stood out to me as questionable, but thankfully, the overall storyline and characters kept me hooked.
What I think I liked best about this book was it centered around finding yourself and being comfortable with who you are. Liz is dealt a pretty awful hand, faces a lot of questions, and is left feeling unsure of herself. One of the reasons Liz starts to fall for Connor, I think, is because being around him makes her feel like herself. He doesn’t have expectations of her. He doesn’t really know her from before, so she doesn’t have to put on a face and pretend to be something she’s not, or pretend to be feelings something she’s not.
At one point, Connor tells her, “I think that this place and being sick can make you feel like you’re not you, but you’ll be back. To yourself.” Liz then starts wondering how that is, the person she’ll be back to. People can define themselves on what they like, what they do…that’s how they decide who they are. And when something happens that changes your ability to like what you used to or do what you used to…it can feel as though you aren’t yourself anymore.
Liz has to come to terms with the changes in her life, but instead of lamenting for who she used to be, she works with who she’s become. She’s realized there’s a lot to life that she and her friends hadn’t seen before. She finds people who can see who she is now and accept that, instead of people who try to return to the way things used to be. Liz can never go back to being the exact same girl she was before her illness, and she understands that. She finds people who also understand that and can embrace the girl she is now instead of wanting the girl she used to be.
The second half of the novel also deals with the relationship between Liz and Connor in an interesting way. I don’t want to reveal too much because I’m not into spoiling things for other people. However, I will say I’m happy that Liz is able to keep living her life even when the relationship isn’t moving forward. She’s still thinking about Connor, but she doesn’t stop her life waiting for him. She finds her strength, recognizes that she wants Connor in her life, but keeps her life moving so she isn’t trapped. I thought it was a good balance between wishing for Connor and knowing that her life is her own…she doesn’t depend on others to live it.
I Didn’t Like:
Okay, here’s where my too intimate knowledge of hospitals and the like comes in. Granted, I have only experience a few hospitals, even if I have spent a lot of time in them. There were just a few little things that picked at me. Things like the central line procedure, the shared hospital room…they were things that because I know about infection protocol, they stood out to me. Like I said, I’ve only ever been in a few different hospitals, but infection protocol is a major thing and those few details kind of went against the protocol that I know about. It wasn’t enough to really ruin the book, but it was enough that I stopped and rolled my eyes a few times.
I Would Recommend To:
Slight spoiler, but if you need your books to be wrapped up in pretty bows…this may not be the best book for you. Things aren’t left in a major cliffhanger, but it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and happiness either. There’s some ambiguity there. That said, if you want a book about someone finding out who they are after a major life event, this is a good book. It has some good questions that I think people should always be asking themselves. It’s got some humor alongside the heaviness. It’s definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone, although there’s some trepidation if you need a perfectly happy ending.
Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.