Monday, September 27, 2021

We Were Never Here - Jennifer Gilmore


Summary: 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. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I dare you to find a topic that is sadder than a teen with a debilitating, life-threatening illness. Go ahead, I’ll wait. It’s like the saddest thing ever! Seriously. I have read several books on this topic, as I’m sure you have (none of us will ever be the same after John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars). It’s just YA Fic gold, especially when it’s well-written.

I don’t love reading about sick children (because that would be disturbing), but what I do love about a book like We Were Never Here is that it allows the reader to be immersed in difficult topics, and ones that are hard to discuss in a non-organic way. We want our teens to be understanding and sympathetic, and we want them to be able to extend kindness to those who are experiencing difficulties. And, heaven forbid, one of our teens has to go through this. It’s hard to bring it up naturally, though, right? You can’t just be sitting around your meatloaf and potatoes and be like “So what do we do when one of our friends is sick and dying?” I mean, we can, but I firmly believe that one of the things that reading does for a person is allow them to develop and experience an empathy that can’t be achieved any other way. We Were Never Here has a strong female protagonist, and since it is written in first person, the reader can experience the feelings and thoughts of one who has to experience such a thing. I found it to be extremely effective. I also thought that Gilmore did a great job of describing the illness in enough detail that we were able to understand the difficulties associated with it, without having to go too deep into the nitty gritty of it and scaring the reader. There is always a careful balance with this, and I found that Gilmore did a great job achieving that balance.

This book also had the benefit of having some excellent flawed characters and had some very healthy ways that the protagonist was able to deal with it. It’s easy to think that when we meet someone that our first impression is true. I liked that Gilmore allowed her characters to develop and reveal themselves in a realistic way. I also liked that this allowed the reader to explore mental illness as well in a very authentic way. Because of this, the ending was satisfying even though it wasn’t necessarily the fairytale we all want.

I thought this was a really good read. It was a fast read, and easy to get into it. I read it in a very short time. I liked the voice of the protagonist and enjoyed the character development. The topic itself was sad but dealt with in a manner that will help readers develop empathy and understanding, which I think is always important. If you’re a reader of YA fic, and especially if you loved Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, this is a book for you.

My Rating: 4 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There are a few instances of language, some medical procedures that aren’t too graphic, and one love scene that is somewhat detailed.

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