Author: Adam Silvera
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, Tumblr
Also by this author: More Happy Than Not, What If It's Us
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication date: January 17, 2017
Source: Penguin Random House Canada (thank you!)
You’re still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real world where this morning you’re having an open casket funeral. I know you’re out there, listening. And you should know I’m really pissed because you swore you would never die and yet here we are. It hurts even more because this isn’t the first promise you’ve broken.
OCD-afflicted seventeen-year-old, Griffin, has just lost his first love – his best friend, ex-boyfriend and the boy he believed to be his ultimate life partner – in a drowning accident. In a desperate attempt to hold onto every last piece of the past, a broken Griffin forges a friendship with Theo’s new college boyfriend, Jackson. And Griffin will stop at nothing to learn every detail of Theo’s new college life, and ultimate death. But as the grieving pair grows closer, readers will question Griffin's own version of the truth – both in terms of what he’s willing to hide, and what true love ultimately means...
Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Reading an Adam Silvera book is like putting yourself into the laundry emotionally; every bump, twist and turn there could be was in History is All You Left Me. Like his debut, More Happy Than Not, the characters in this book were honest and real, but heartbreaking.
Griffin and Theo were everything to one another – they were deeply in love. And then Theo moved away, moved on with another guy, and Griffin was devastated. But not as devastated as now – because Theo is dead now, and Griffin has to face Theo’s new boyfriend, Jackson, and the whole history of their relationships.
History is All You Left Me is a rollercoaster. My initial thoughts were that this was going to be deeply sad, and it is. But it’s not JUST sad. In fact, it’s more devastating because the narrative flips between what happened before Theo’s death and what’s happening now. We see the beginning of Griffin and Theo juxtaposed with how Griffin is dealing now.
Even more unsettling is the fact that the narrative is written in second person. It sounds weird, but Griffin spends the entire book narrating to Theo, telling him everything. The way he speaks to this unknown “you” gives the book a sense of immediacy and intimacy. We (the readers) access every moment and thought Griffin has.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t hide things, though. I’ve mentioned before that I usually hate it when the MC/protagonist of a book is hiding information from the reader. It creates a false sense of suspense that I find too easy. However. If there is a book that uses the hiding-information-from-the-reader trope well, it’s this one – mainly because that’s not the point or the driver of the novel. There are some crazy revelations in the back end of the book, but by that point, Silvera has built such rounded characters that the epiphanies just add layers to the complexity.
Speaking of layered, these are characters who practically breathe through the page. I’m not gonna lie, I think a lot of people might end up disliking Griffin. He’s pretty horrible to people (himself included) throughout the novel, he’s obsessive, and he’s…going through a lot. But through it all, I couldn’t help but ship him and Theo (that, in itself, is so weird. The feelings you give me about dead people, Silvera!), and hope for more for him.
Griffin’s history with Theo is so full of cuteness and love and thoughtfulness, though, that you know he’s better than he appears to be. Especially since you very quickly realize that he is obsessive-compulsive, isn’t taking it seriously, and dealing with death along with his compulsions is seriously screwing with him.
I admit to feeling just as confused by Jackson as Griffin did. In my rational mind, I could see that he was a great guy just doing his best to get through a devastating time. He really loves Theo, too – you don’t see it firsthand, but you can feel it. But being in Griffin’s head, you want to ignore that.
At 292 pages, this doesn’t seem like a long YA novel, but trust me when I say you can’t rush this one. Silvera paces each chapter, each moment methodically, and you really have to read every word. The characters in this book go through so much that I had to keep taking breaks from the book because I knew I needed to give it my entire focus. I did feel like that was hard during the middle, which dragged a bit. Luckily, the ending ramped up a lot.
At the same time, I wasn’t fully convinced of the ending. Even though it made sense for the plot, it felt a little forced character-wise. Spoilers: View Spoiler »The Wade relationship felt like it popped up out of nowhere. Having him become a major character felt like a little too easy a resolution for me. « Hide Spoiler
Still, there’s a lot to love about this book. It’s a unique and incredible portrayal of grief in a teenage boy. The messiness of the relationships felt so honest that I have to applaud Silvera for getting these characters right.
Mental Health Matters: I don’t have OCD and I don’t know anyone who does, but I feel like Silvera really accurately portrays how it is to have compulsions that overwhelm and threaten to take over your life. And he does it in a way that doesn’t make it take over the book, which I really appreciated.
Parents-of-the-Year Award: OMG. Almost all the parents in this are so friggin great, I cannot. Not only were they totally accepting of their sons’ sexual orientations, they were also enabling in the right (albeit sometimes embarrassing) ways and stepped in when they needed to. I loved seeing healthy and honest parent-child relationships.
Nerdy Nerdiness Alert: Griffin loves Harry Potter. Theo loves Star Wars. They have this thing about zombie pirates. Jackson and Theo are both in school for animation. And they do puzzles and have figurines. Your nerd heart will soar.
I Ship It (sorta?): I can’t really call this a heart-squeezing romance because Theo’s dead, but I definitely shipped Griffin and Theo and their adorable gifts and tokens for each other.
Book Theme Song:
Griffin has his own songs that he mentions in the book, but I could not get this entire album out of my head while reading this book. Every song just seemed to work, from the desperation of Latch, to the plaintive pleas of Leave Your Lover and Like I Can, to the resignation of I’m Not the Only One and Lay Me Down. Even Money on My Mind kinda works because there’s a passing discussion of privilege. Just listen to the entire thing while reading. Oh my heart.
The Final Word:
More tightly written than More Happy Than Not, History Is All You Left Me is a strong sophomore novel from Adam Silvera. While it’s a lower concept than his first book, it’s no less sophisticated, and in a lot of ways, more weighty. The book dragged a bit and the ending felt a little forced, but I was still impressed by the honesty of the characters. This is one of the best and most realistic evocations of a teen going through grief that I’ve read.
HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME is out in bookstores in North America now. Will you be reading it? Have you read Adam Silvera’s MORE HAPPY THAN NOT? What do you think of the concept of this book – talking to a dead person? Let me know in the comments!