What I Was

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Carnegie winner Meg Rosoff’s What I Was will surely find a place on the shortlists for major prizes”
— Publishing News

Meg Rosoff is one of a handful of gifted writers to have seized adolescence as a territory worthy of respect. (Her books) are mordantly funny and searingly well written, they read like Samuel Beckett on Ecstasy.”
— The Times

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Readers of Rosoff’s previous books, How I Live Now and Just In Case will know what a disturbing writer she is, and how disconcertingly she shifts the perspectives of time, place, reality and human relationships from those we are used to. What I Was maintains her remarkable gift for turning human life into an unfamiliar event. It’s a highly original study of intense self-love, in all its solitude. Yet as before with Rosoff, this story of bleak and unstable existence ends on a surprising note of thanksgiving.”
— Books for Keeps

Every bit as compelling and all-encompassing as the multi-award-winning ‘How I Live Now’ and ‘Just In Case’ (for which she picked up this year’s Carnegie Medal), What I Was is another coming-of-age novel which sucks the reader whole into its universe.”
— Five star review, Time Out

The narrator of Carnegie Medal winner Rosoff’s latest and perhaps most perfect novel is a 16-year-old boy who has been expelled from two boarding schools and finds himself dumped in a third, near the Suffolk coast. The school is all arbitrary rules, pretentious tradition and routine bullying. But on the beach nearby the boy finds a fisherman’s hut occupied by beautiful, competent Finn, who is everything he wishes he could be himself: athletic, self-sufficient, able, free. The relationship that follows becomes an escape and an obsession, pure and transporting, and a turning point in a life remembered by the narrator at the age of 100. It makes us fall in love not only with Finn but also with the Suffolk coast, the land, the sky and the sea passionately described in airy and crystalline prose. It’s already a classic.”
— Sunday Times

64 responses to “What I Was”

  1. Melyssa

    I just finished your book “What I Was” and I had to search for more of your novels. I have read so many books and nothing has made my heart ache or my throat sting (I assure you, in a unforgetable/pleasing way) like this masterpiece has done. The way you word everything is so soothing yet just so powerful. I hate myself for reading this book as fast as I did…but here I am babbling…I know you get many comments saying what I want to, so i’ll just get to the point;
    Thank you for writing this unforgettable book Meg, I will read it over and over and know I will always be taken far away from my own home to the salty ocean, into the hut being swallowed by the sea.

  2. Alice

    I read this for a school assignment, and usually I HATE being told what to read (I like to choose my books because I know what I like), but this book was AMAZING!!! I cried a little bit at the end!!! It was so good, I decided to read How I Live Now and that is amazing too!! I’m hoping to read the rest of your books VERY soon! Keep on writing more amazing books Meg!!

  3. Jess

    There’s something about your books that gives solace, happiness and peace. I have read all but 2 (Vamoose and How I live now) which are top priority on my list of books to read ASAP.
    I won’t take ages saying how inspirational and fantastic your writing is, because I’m sure lots of people have already told you this and I agree. The first book I read by you was Just In Case and since I picked that book off the shelf and opened the first page I have been captured and engrossed by your work.
    I would like to be a writer myself someday and what I really wanted to say was that this book, like all your others, has effected me in countless ways and I am eternally grateful to you for writing it.
    You must be a very deep and insightful person and I would love to meet you one day. :)

  4. Charlie

    Meg I have nearly finished what I was as a class book which a few people have chosen to read. I have loved it so far a can’t wait to read the end.

  5. Lara

    Meg I just fineshed your book What I was. I would lick to tell you that you book was great. I fealt lick I was rihet there in the hut and could not put it doun for a minet. I loved it and look farwed to reading your ather book. Also I wouls lick to tell you that there are no wourds to describe your writing. You inspire me to be cume a better writer. I well never forget what I was because because it is a amazing book.:)

  6. Tara Storey

    this is such a brilliant book! the idea of this story is amazing. you have a way with creating incredible twists and what i was is no exception. :)

  7. Kayla

    My friend and I saw this book at our public library and we got two copies to read, I finished your book in two days, and I am a very slow reader (my friend- not so much :)) I must say you are a master of SUSPENSE!!! i could not stop reading till the very end!!

  8. Lauren

    Dear Meg

    I really love your books. My favourites have to be ‘How I Live Now’ and ‘What I Was’. Even though I’m just becoming an adult now, they have to be two of the best books I ever read as a teenager. I would love it if you could write more books like those two. As somebody who reads all the classics now, and is preparing for ‘serious’ English at Oxford University, your books are a welcome relief- straight forward to read, but books that get to your heart and soul. Please keep writing.
    Lauren :)

  9. Mickey and Choudhery

    Hi Meg,
    I’ve just finished What I Was and must add that the eruption of tears triggered by reading the line ‘It was many years before I saw Finn again’ and the furthered (but incomplete) realisation that followed have only just been subdued. May I ask why you chose to end (Finn and Hilary’s relationship) the way you did, rather than with a ‘happier’ one?
    I’d also like to let you know that (owning the edition with the ‘boy’ on the cover) I’d been questioning many family and friends about whether they judged the person on the cover to be a boy or a girl and, having only read the blurb and first couple of chapters, I smugly responded to those who said girl -which was most- with (my so-called) ‘correction’ that it was infact a boy. I also can’t stop wondering at his (or her) strange and exceeding beauty! I equally find your beginning description of Finn being ‘unbearably beautiful’ to be the most perfect I have ever come accross. ‘…overcome with pleasure and longing’ is exactly how I feel when I come accross such a person and do often similarly have to turn away- and this is not just down to the fact that I am too probably nothing but a hormonal 16 year old girl in most’s eyes!
    Finally, sorry for waffling and thank you so much for creating yet another beautiful masterpiece and the one novel that I feel I can truly relate to.
    Mickey and Choudhery

  10. Jess

    Hi, I’m Jess. I know you probably get lots and lots of comments so I’ll be quick – this is my favourite book. I really loved it, and it was different from anything else I’ve ever read. It’s on my bookshelf, it’s pages faded from being read so many times and creased cos I take it on holidays everywhere to reread. So, I guess what I mean is thanks for writing it! You’re a really good author. (I’m sure you already know that but still.) Thanks xx :)

  11. Zoe

    Dearest Meg,
    ‘What I Was’ is the one book I find myself coming back to. Now, normally I will read a novel and only keep it on my bookshelf if I think I could lend it to a friend because I have enjoyed it so much. But hardly ever have I re-read a book, and I was especially surprised at being able to re-read ‘What I Was’ because of the surprise at the end (It still surprises me).
    I absolutely love the characters and (coming from East Anglia myself) can imagine a little fisherman’s hut on the coast. Your writing gives me such images of the world of the book. If I ever am able to direct a film, It would be my absolute wish to do an adaption of this book.

    Please keep writing, because you can be sure that I will keep reading :)

  12. David

    Dear Meg,

    just finished “What I was”…your book left me walking in a daze, stunned by the twists and emotions of the story.
    I bought the book for my daughter a few years ago, she said I must read it… thank goodness I did !
    All of the above comments elegantly describe my own feelings for the story and reflect your gift for contacting what we really feel, deep down, but mostly don’t let out. If you judge a writer by her readers, then you are truly gifted.
    Thank you.


  13. Veeha

    Dearest Meg,
    I’m sure you’ve heard this alot of times but this book is a work of art!  I really loved how realistically you told such a beautiful story! It’s definatley always going to remain on my shelf of favourite books and I can’t wait to read your other ones. The ending of What I Was is beyond brilliant and always manages to make me cry (which was quite embarrassing cause I first finished it in the middle of my classroom) I love the way you play with the sense of time and the thought of Hilary going back to Finns island is truly heartbreaking!
    Thank you for writing What I Was