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 grow 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... From Goodreads.
I absolutely loved Adam Silvera's first book, More Happy Than Not, so I was really looking forward to his next novel, History Is All You Left Me. And it was such a beautiful story!
I was a little disappointed, though. That's not to say History Is All You Left Me is a bad book; it's not badly written, and the story isn't awful. It was actually a great story! I think the problem for me is More Happy Than Not was so incredible, I was expecting a book that was just as good, but in my opinion, wasn't as captivating as the first. Had I read this first, I think I would have loved it, but I guess I was just expecting more.
Saying that, I did enjoy the story. Griffin's relationship with Theo was a complicated one. The story is told in alternating chapters of Today, in the present, and History, which follows Griffin and Theo's relationship from best friends to a couple, and then back to best friends again. It was such an interesting way to tell the story, because from the start you know that Theo will die, and before that, that he and Griffin will break up, and Theo will find a new boyfriend, Jackson. So you get to know the Theo knowing his end will come. In some ways, this was awesome, because I quite liked Theo (though not all of the time, sometimes he was not the nicest of guys), and I felt sad as I warmed to him, knowing he was going to die. However, when History gets to the point where he does die, very close to the end, it wasn't as upsetting because I already knew, and had already read half of the chapters watching Griffin deal with his grief in present day. And on the flip side of this, at the beginning we don't know Theo that well yet, so although I sympathised with Griffin, I couldn't empathise with his grief; I hadn't lost him yet. It was a really great way to tell the story, but at the same time telling the story this way left me with an emotional disconnect; I felt sorry for the characters who were grieving, but I wasn't all that upset myself.
What was really odd, but also beautiful, was the relationship between Griffin and Jackson. Reading the blurb, I thought it was going to end up that the two would bond in their grief and fall in love, but it's not that story. These two do not fall in love, but they do bond. Neither like the other; Griffin always held out hope that he and Theo would eventually get back together, that is was going to be them for life, and Jackson was this obstacle to that, and Jackson struggled with how close Theo was to his ex - and understandably really, as Griffin was hoping they would end up breaking up. In the History chapters, I think a number of us will be able to relate to Griffin during these moments; that feeling of being in love with someone who is with someone else. Griffin really struggles with it, and I found it really uncomfortable how he really wanted them to split up, that every time Theo would come to him after he and Jackson would have a fight, he'd say all the right things, being a "friend", but secretly hoping this was the fight that would end things. That really wasn't nice to see, it really bothered me, and I just kept thinking, why can't you accept the way things are and move on? It was really unhealthy, and he hoped in a way that I wasn't ok with. But the reason he holds on to his hope so much is covered later in the book, and it just upset me in the biggest way. And all I can say is, thank god for Wade, Theo and Griffin's friend. He is such a good guy! But ugh, Griffin just isn't that great, I really disliked him at times.
But back to Griffin and Jackson in present day. They do not like each other, but they are the only other people who know exactly what they're going through: losing someone you love. Each can accept that the other genuinely loved Theo, and so both are experiencing the same thing, though they each have different history with Theo. A friendship is formed as they get to know each other, though, and learn about the Theo each didn't know, and grieve together. But at the same time, Griffin still feels jealousy over their relationship, and though he wants to know about Theo-at-college and his relationship with Jackson, each thing he learns hurts him. Their friendship helps each other, but it also hurts each other. I do think they talk about things they shouldn't talk about with each other, but they need to talk about Theo, and who else is going to listen, is going to get it?
I loved the intersectionality of this book, because Griffin is gay (making this book #OwnVoices), and has OCD. The focus is on Griffin's grief, his relationship with Theo, and his blossoming friendship with Jackson, but Griffin's OCD is still a big part of the book. He can only walk or be on people's left sides, he was an issue with odd numbers, when it comes to the time and dates as well as the number of things. We witness Griffin having a panic attack twice, and when he can't get past an odd number of in a mental list. As someone who has panic attacks because of anxiety, I found them to be very realistic, even if the causes are different. I would have liked to have seen more of him in therapy and getting treated for it, but it's understandable that we don't as Griffin isn't in a place to deal with it when he's so weighed down by his grief.
In all, History Is All You Left Me is a beautiful, but heartbreaking story - despite my emotional disconnect!
Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children's Books for the bookseller reading copy.
Published: 9th February 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
Adam Silvera's Website
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