We Were Never Here by Jennifer Gilmore is a bittersweet, honest and emotional story about recovery and healing, and a about the romance between a hospitalized girl and a troubled boy.
The story is about teenager Lizzie, whose life changes drastically when she gets sick and finds out that she’s suffering from an inflamed colon. This is probably one of the most embarrassing illnesses for a teenage girl, having a bag attached to you doesn’t really make teenage life and the idea of being intimate with anyone easier… Understandably, Lizzie is mortified and has a lot of self-pity, pushing her friends and family away. But eventually, she meets Connor, who appears to be this sweet golden boy who visits the hospital patients with his dog and who can help Lizzie get her confidence and hope back, as he sees more to her than her sickness. Soon though, it becomes clear that Connor has his own demons and although he doesn’t have scars to show for them, his wounds might be harder to heal.
I have some mixed feelings about this book. I absolutely loved some parts of it, but some parts didn’t work quite as well. I loved that the heroine, Lizzie, was so true about the pain and struggle to handle her disease and her humor dealing with it, but still there were so many parts of her and her way of reacting to other people that I really didn’t like at all. It’s understandable that having to deal with a lifelong illness, and such an awkward one, was a struggle and that she had a right to be upset and acting out, but there were moments when she was just unreasonably mean and rude to her friends and people who were interested in her wellbeing. I definitely felt for Lizzie, but I wasn’t really able to connect with her. And then strawberry-golden boy Connor, who was such a cliché at first, but who grew on you when it turned out that he wasn’t that perfect after all, only to act so badly that I ended up not liking him very much in the end after all. I also didn’t really feel any chemistry between Connor and Lizzie. Their love story was sweet, but it didn’t move mountains.
The character I loved most in the book was Stella, Lizzie’s new friend. I loved how she changed Lizzie for the better. And the dogs! They must be some of the best written dog-characters ever. They really added to the story and are a part of the book that I liked the most.
Overall, I enjoyed this story and Lizzie’s character development. It’s a very real, thought-provoking and meaningful story about an unusual illness that emphasizes how important it is to see beneath the obvious. Mental illness isn’t always visible and it’s not always the person in the hospital that suffers the most. It wasn’t the greatest love story, but it was honest and emotional, and I definitely recommend it.
Find out more about the book and the author here: Jennifer Gilmore