Allison's Book Bag

A Suicide Book That Isn’t About Suicide

Posted on: February 18, 2015

GayleForemanGayle Forman is an award-winning, internationally bestselling author and journalist. She has worked as a features writer for Seventeen Magazine and freelanced for other notable publications. Best known for her best-selling young adult novels, If I Stay and its sequel Where She Went, she has also published a fiction trilogy that consisted of the titles Just One Day, Just One Year, and Just One Night. Her literary honors include the ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers Award. She lives in New York with her husband and two daughters.


As a teen, I was so obsessed with Molly Ringwald that I started biting my lip like she did and now I have a permanent scar. And this is why I am a YA author.

–Gayle Foreman, Bio

In her Bio, Foreman announces, “When I was little I wanted to grow up to be the sun. I was devastated to learn this was not a career option.” She also shares a string of other interesting tidbits such as the fact she bombed her SATs, took three years off to travel before college, and most-hated being a data-entry clerk. Honorable mentions also go to hotel maid and traveling flower seller girl.

At the age of 21, Foreman enrolled in college. Even then, reports Publisher’s Weekly, it was an impulse decision. Foreman wanted to work with Doctors without Borders and that would require her to study medicine. After two trimesters, Foreman realized that science wasn’t her forte.

At that point, she almost quit college. Ironically, it was a journalism class, “the one that was supposed to be the big heavy-duty class that would make you drop the idea of going into journalism,” that hooked her. Foreman tells Publisher’s Weekly that she took it because of a guy she liked, but ultimately ended up loving the class.

After graduation, Foreman wound up at Seventeen for three years on staff and two as a contributor. For the magazine, Foreman wrote serious stories for teens about social justice issues.

By now, Foreman knew she wanted to write. However, “not having parameters like facts, and interviews, and an outline,” proved too hard, and so she wrote a travel book. It had eight chapters, each of which had a lot of reporting, but was its own little narrative.

When Foreman got pregnant, she decided not to do any more stories that took her away from home. That decision, Foreman shares with Publisher’s Weekly, combined with having had three magazine pieces killed in one month and no way to pay the mortgage, is how Foreman backed her way into becoming a young adult novelist.

Forman’s first novel was based on a story she had written at Seventeen. After writing it, Foreman realized that being a young adult author was her call. It felt like coming home.


In 2009, Forman released If I Stay, about a 17-year-old girl named Mia who has been involved in a tragic car accident. The novel follows Mia’s experience as she lies in a coma fully aware of what is going on around her and everything her visitors say and do. Feeling the agony of loss of those closest to her yet aware of the abounding love of those that remain, she must make the choice to hang on or let go. For this novel, Forman won the 2009 New Atlantic Independent Book Award and 2010 Indie Choice Honor Award. A film adaptation of If I Stay was released in August, 2014.

Foreman’s newest novel also centers on the teetering point between life and death. Except in I Was Here, that death has already occurred. It instead tells the story of how one teenager’s suicide has a ripple effect through everyone connected to her.

Part of the inspiration for I Was Here, reports Bustle, came from an article Foreman did during her journalism year about the history of women and suicide. One woman Foreman talked with who had attempted to kill herself was Suzy Gonzales. Foreman found the circumstances around the suicide heartbreaking: the fact that Gonzales was so charismatic and that she’d been involved with a suicide “support” group that had championed her decision to end her own life.

What got Foreman thinking about the article years later was the suicide note Gonzales had sent on a time-delay email, so that by the time it arrived, she had already ended her life. Foreman started to imagine what it would be like to get that type of email. From this inspiration, Foreman landed on the character of Cody.

Tomorrow I’ll return with info about the hashtag #IWasHere. Then on Friday I’ll post a review of I Was Here. Save the dates: February 19-20!

It’s strange to say that this is not a book about suicide because we’re going to talk about suicide a lot. But I don’t think it is. Ultimately this book is about Cody and her resilience and her finding the strength for forgiveness and understanding.

–Gayle Foreman, Bustle

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