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What I Was

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  2,658 ratings  ·  383 reviews
Rising star Meg Rosoff delivers a piercing and magical story about friendship and humanity.

In the not too distant future, a one-hundred-year-old man called H sails the eastern coast of England with his godson. H recalls when he himself was sixteen —his godson'’s age— as they search for the site of H’'s life-altering friendship with a boy named Finn. Finn lives alone on an

Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Penguin Books (first published August 30th 2007)
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I think I'm losing faith in Meg Rosoff.

I LOVED How I Live Now, so much so that I even consider it one of my favourite books of all time, and when Just In Case came out, I snapped it up immediately. It too was a bit of a let down. This novel was well-written and immersive but ultimately I didn't come away from the book feeling like I'd been changed or learned something significant having read it. As a matter of fact, it didn't even feel like Rosoff was trying to tell me anything at all.

I figured
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I miss books like this. It’s been so long since I’ve come across one. What I Was found me today at Chapters. I can’t even tell you where. Was it on a table (20 books to read before you’re 20? Maybe New & Hot Teen Fiction?), or maybe just there on the shelf. I have no idea now. But anyway. I picked it up and read the back and got chills up my spine. This was a book I had to read, even if it tore my guts out (which it did, mostly).

What I Was is the story of H. 16 years old and shuffled off to
My favorite Meg Rosoff book so far. How I Live Now was good, but I was stunned by this one. From the dust jacket annotation I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to buy the plot, but once I started the story I found it perfectly plausible. The twist ending is something I hadn't seen coming, which is unusual -- usually I guess surprise endings ahead of time, which is kind of a drag. Best of all is the atmosphere of the story. From Rosoff's descriptions I could practically see the North Sea fog ...more
I don't know what to rate this book... I don't know what to make of it. I would prefer to give it a 3.5 but since halvsies aren't allowed I rounded up. This book immediately drew me in and I could not put it down (would spellbinding be too strong?). I was absolutey captivated, and Rosoff threw in a unexpected twist totally throwing my predictions out the window (and I was happy to do so). But I don't know if I had closure... I just don't know.
Aug 05, 2009 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, YA
Shelves: read-in-2009
Review published here:

Meg Rosoff's novel What I Was will early on remind readers of John Knowles's classic coming of age tale, A Separate Peace. Both books feature an adult narrator reminiscing about his time as a 16-year-old in a boarding school and the dark events that changed his life forever. Though the similarities are undeniable, Rosoff manages to give her story a unique touch that will haunt the reader long after the final page.

Rosoff gives a nod t
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Not as brilliant as "How I Live Now," (really, what can be?), but still a thoroughly good read. I really enjoy Ms. Rosoff's way with words, she is really skilled at describing a scene and various characters' reactions to it without spelling it all out for you. Perhaps because I have always been partial to stories of children & teens surviving out in the wilderness on their own with no adults (i.e., My Side of the Mountain, Julie of Wolves, The Boxcar Children, etc, etc), I really enjoyed her ...more
What an intriguing little book.

I knew from experience that Meg Rosoff doesn’t pen your “average” young adult fiction; indeed, How I Live Now was one of the more offbeat, compelling and disturbing YA books I’ve ever read. I finished it almost four years ago, yet I can recall certain passages and turns of phrase all these books later.

In the vein of the colorful, unusual and incredibly well-written is this slim novel: What I Was. The tale of H, our relatively unnamed narrator, and his long-ago frie
Honestly, I spent more than half this book wishing it wouldn't end in the way it ended. But there was something overally beautiful and touching that I can't really put my finger on. So I give this book five stars for it's heartwarming, realistic story and more so for the feeling it gives you.
What I was follows our nameless hero's life in his 3rd boarding school where he has to cope with the school 'rules' and his disgusting perverse roommates. A chance meeting with a boy living alone on the beac
(Original review posted on my livejournal account:

Why I Read It: I read Rosoff's award-winning How I Live Now a few years ago and while I didn't fall head-over--heels in love with it, I still LIKED it and have been curious to check out her other works. This went on sale at work for $2 for the hardcover (!!!) AND I get 30% off on top of that so I couldn't resist picking this title up. It's languished in my TBR for too long, so I finally picked up and gave
Shonna Froebel
I've always enjoyed everything I've read by Rosoff, and this was no exception. This book has an elderly man looking back at the year he was sixteen. The year was 1962 and he was in his third boarding school, having been kicked out of the previous two. He has no real ambition and tries to keep to himself and do as little as possible, that is until he meets another young man, who lives alone in a hut on the beach. When he meets Finn, he finds himself drawn to the life Finn lives, simple, doing wha ...more
Liberty Gilmore
What’s Good About It

Meg Rosoff does write beautifully. Her prose is haunting and perfectly captures the intensity of the relationship between the main character and Finn, and the backdrop against which the story is played. There’s a particularly beautiful bit in which a storm is described that left me feeling like I was right there in the heart of it.

What’s Not So Good

It should probably be said at this point that I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Rosoff’s books. I had to read How I L
This book was absolutely phenomenal. I brought it on a camping trip because it was relatively small (and therefore easy to carry) and I bought it for $5 so I wasn't particularly worried about it. I had a day to relax, and I started the book.
I had started it once before, but it didn't grab me in the first few pages and, at the time, I didn't have the free time to focus on it. I set it aside, which I now realize was a mistake.
I finished the book in less than 6 hours. I devour books usually, but th
I definitely recognized this as having been by the author of How I Live Now. The title, something about the tone, the writing style, maybe even the set-in-the-future-but-not-really-ness of it. And, like HILN, What I Was could just as easily be YA as adult fiction. (The library shelves this one with the adults’.)

I thought it was really good, if not as unexpectedly excellent as HILN. The last pages sort of spun out, and left me a bit confused and disappointed. To be fair, I’ve never liked epilogue
This is a lovely book. “H”, the narrator, is an old man looking back, telling the story of his youth and first love. Beautifully written – even poetic – it takes you on a journey to a place you can clearly picture in your mind. (Of course, I once lived in East Anglia so maybe that helped!) The setting is wonderfully evoked including the all-boys boarding school where H lives, & the cottage by the sea where his friend Finn lives. This is one of those books that will make you think about simpl ...more
I started reading this book before Christmas and I just can't seem to finish it. I fell in love with Rosoff's writing with How I Live Now - what an amazing book that was - but this novel is missing something.

*EDIT* I don't know what happened, but yesterday I just felt like I couldn't abandon this book and I finished it. I'm glad I did. The second half of the book picks up and slides back into Rosoff's comfortable prose. She just has a way of creating a magic bubble around her characters so for
I got to the end of the second disc and just could not get myself to move on. The language seemed excessively wordy and even though she excessively uses language to try and describe the surroundings and characters, I was not able to fully picture them. I cared less about the characters and their relationship. The story was bland and uneventful and I really could not decipher what the point of the story was.
It had a similar flow to How I Live Now, but the voice was not as interesting.
I usually

I found this book both disappointing and entertaining. It grabbed my attention immediately and I didn't stop reading it because their friendship was interesting to the point that I couldn't put the book down, but I felt that the ending was a bit off. Shocking to realize Finn was a girl and I just really hoped that his flu went away over the course of a couple of weeks and then Finn and H would just live together peacefully in the fishing shack. I was also quite surprised when I read
Sophie Holden
this is one of those books that is so hard to describe because of the way it's written and the beauty of the truth within it. Rosoff manages to make this no name 16-year-old boy a very three-dimensional character without really telling us much information. He meets this boy called Finn and develops a friendship that is simultaneously this deep form of attraction and the most innocent and pure need of company.

the story develops as the two boys continue that friendship each learning more from the
I am a century old, an impossible age, and my brain has no anchor in the present. Instead it drifts, nearly always to the same shore.
Today, as most days, it is 1962. The year I discovered love.
I am sixteen years old. (1)

You know how you wait months and months for summer vacation, and when it finally arrives you take in a huge breath, let it out, grab a cool drink in a perspiring glass and go outside to lie in the sun, with the grass tickling your legs and bugs crawling over your arms as you
De schrijfstijl

Direct werd ik in het boek getrokken en dit kwam vooral door de prachtige beschrijvingen van de natuur en de sfeer. Ik had direct beeld en ik had echt gevoel alsof ik me bevond waar de hoofdpersoon zich bevond. Het oproepen van de omgeving is naar mijn idee in dit boek geweldig, en zo beeldend kom ik het niet vaak tegen.

Het verhaal

Het verhaal kabbelt een beetje, maar vat dit vooral niet op als een negatief punt, want dat is het zeker niet. Het kabbelt op een manier die bij het ver
William Barton
What I Was follows a young schoolboy teen named Hilary (yes, Hilary) and his secret friendship with Finn, who lives an isolated life on the beach in East Anglia in the United Kingdom. Hilary thinks that Finn lives a perfect life, away from school, from peers, and away from teachers. As their friendship grows, Hilary learns more and more about his personality as he tries to adapt the “perfect” lifestyle of his new friend. But what happens next changes everything and brings Hilary to new realizati ...more
What can I say? I love Meg Rosoff! A wonderfully and beautifully told story with a shocking twist that begs to be read in book clubs! In terms of YA appeal, I think the story is best suited for older teens... high school and college aged's a coming of age story which many teens may relate to, but there are complex themes that are better suited for sophisticated readers....
So I have just finished the book ‘What I was’ by Meg Rosoff. I heard about her when we read ‘brides farewell’ in our English class at school. I didn’t really like the storyline of Brides Farewell however, I do love Meg’s writing style. So, I went to the school library and luckily, they had this book. I picked the book up and read the blurb. It looked very interesting so I went and read the first few pages and really enjoyed it. After that, I decided to take the book out and give it a try. It was ...more
Released in the US as an adult fiction title and elsewhere as a YA book, What I Was is a boarding school novel in which a miserable adolescent boy at a dismal boarding school on the coast of England one day meets a mysterious boy named Finn living by himself in a shack by the sea. It's beautifully written and captures the longing the boy feels for Finn and his freedom.
This was certainly one of the most interesting books I have ever read, everything about it was just so unorthodox, and not necessarily in a good way. It was the least captivating book ever, and even though as a whole it was good, it took way too long to figure that out. Twist was just weird, read with caution.
i want to give this to be a 3.5, but ultimately i don't know what to make of it. ultimately i guess it's somewhere around a 3.5 because of how deeply i love this type of prose. i'm just unsure about this - i never got into the hype about 'how i live now' either. this was just a bit of a letdown and i LOVE coming of age novels. i feel like i always want to like meg rosoff's novels a lot more than i do; she's a great writer, and i felt that even more in this book than in 'how i live now' - but at ...more
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Meg Rosoff was born in Boston and had three or four careers in publishing and advertising before she moved to London in 1989, where she lives now with her husband and daughter. Formerly a Young Adult author, Meg has earned numerous prizes including the highest American and British honors for YA fiction: the Michael L. Printz Award and the Carnegie Medal.
More about Meg Rosoff...
How I Live Now Just in Case Picture Me Gone There Is No Dog The Bride's Farewell

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“I am almost a hundred years old; waiting for the end, and thinking about the beginning.

There are things I need to tell you, but would you listen if I told you how quickly time passes?

I know you are unable to imagine this.

Nevertheless, I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel. The most intense moments will seem to have occurred only yesterday and nothing will have erased the pain and pleasure, the impossible intensity of love and its dog-leaping happiness, the bleak blackness of passions unrequited, or unexpressed, or unresolved.”
“And still the brain continues to yearn, continues to burn, foolishly, with desire. My old man's brain is mocked by a body that still longs to stretch in the sun and form a beautiful shape in someone else's gaze, to lie under a blue sky and dream of helpless, selfless love, to behold itself, illuminated, in the golden light of another's eyes.” 32 likes
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