Author: Jeff Zentner
Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram
Also by this author: The Serpent King
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: March 7th 2017
Source: Chapters Indigo
Format: ARC, Hardcover
“Gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately life-affirming,” says Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun Is Also A Star, of this novel about finding strength and hope after tragedy. Perfect for fans of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Looking for Alaska.
Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. But now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, a powerful judge is pressuring the district attorney to open up a criminal investigation. Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a “goodbye day” together to share their memories and say a proper farewell. Soon the other families are asking for their own goodbye day with Carver—but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these goodbye days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?
Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
To read Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner is to go through the entire grief process. To mourn, to rage, to laugh, to remember, and to hold and release. It’s a reading experience that I’ve not had with many books, and I’m not sure I’ll have again.
Carver Briggs just lost his three best friends, Mars, Blake, and Eli, in a car accident – one that he might have accidentally caused by texting his friend who was driving. Some of the families of his friends feel the accident is his fault; there’s a possibility that Carver could be charged with a crime. Others just want his help to remember Mars, Blake and Eli through “goodbye days” – days where he helps the families live out the last days of each of his friends.
Goodbye Days has a great hook, but the actual book is very simple. It follows Carver as he deals with and tries to process his grief and the grief of others. There’s plot here, but it’s very free-flowing, anchored by each goodbye day. The rest of the book alternates between sessions with Carver’s therapist, moments with Eli’s girlfriend Jesmyn, and his family.
Carver’s narrative is heavy, weighty with guilt, shame, reluctance, love, and mourning. I read Goodbye Days in small chunks because being in Carver’s head is illuminating, but also profoundly sad. I feel like I experienced the book like Carver does grief – in waves that ebbed and flowed as he found a way to live with himself.
I’m describing this book as very sad…but there are so many moments when I smiled or burst out laughing. Carver spends a lot of the book remembering hilarious, random moments with his friends. These moments saved the book from being too morose. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew all of these characters like I know my own friends.
I think that’s the thing that Jeff Zentner does so well. Like in The Serpent King, I connected so much with Carver, his friends and family that they stopped being characters for me. When Carver goes to see a rock concert with Jesmyn, I was with him. When he had moments with his therapist, or he laughed randomly about something Blake did, or Eli played, or Mars drew, I was with him. I loved and mourned with Carver and the other characters, and as I said in the beginning, I’m not sure I’ll ever have that reading experience again. .
Storytelling: There’s a lot about the importance of stories, of letting people tell their narratives, and of how storytelling can heal. Definitely the biggest lesson of the book for me .
Romance (Sorta): I can’t really say much without getting into spoilers, but I think Zentner handled this part of the book sensitively, honestly, and respectfully. And that’s all I’m going to say about that (but I would love to discuss with anyone who has read the book!).
Cameos: If you read The Serpent King, you will love this. I sure did.
Voice-tastic Writing: Jeff Zentner astounds me with his ability to write dialogue for teens. The voices of all of his characters ring incredibly true, from big sister Georgia to Eli’s struggling, grieving parents, to therapist Dr. Mendez. I’m amazed by how real these people are to me.
Bromance #squadgoals: The Sauce Crew (Carver, Mars, Blake, and Eli) and their interactions…this is what teenage boys are like to me. A little disgusting, a lot hilarious, and sometimes, unflinchingly honest and real. What I loved most about them was how much they all had each other’s backs while totally ragging on each other.
The Final Word:
In Goodbye Days, Jeff Zentner manages to explore boy friendship, grief, guilt, loss, love, and family…without losing sight of the characters. Goodbye Days is both very big book, and a very, very small one. In his grief, Carver’s world narrows to just him and taking the steps to breathe and try to feel okay being alive. At the same time, we also see him dealing with those very big themes of how to live, and how to move on. It sounds simple, but to write a book this connected, this honest, and this raw is an impressive feat of storytelling. I won’t forget these characters any time soon.
Recommended for: people who like emotional reads, people who like very honest, true-to-life books, contemporary lovers, people looking for realistic boy friendships.
GOODBYE DAYS is out in bookstores now. Will you be reading it? Did you read and love The Serpent King? Which did you like better? Let me know in the comments!