Saturday, January 21, 2017

Book Review: "History Is All You Left Me" by Adam Silvera

Oh, man, this book...

Theo was Griffin's first love. They were best friends first, and then one day, Theo surprised Griffin by expressing his feelings for him, especially since they had never discussed either of them being gay. (This was Theo's secret; Griffin's was revealing to Theo that he knew he was suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder and he wasn't quite sure what to do about it.)

"It's going to sound stupid, and I wouldn't ever say this out loud, but the way Theo and I came out to each other was sort of like getting caught in a thunderstorm. Storms can suck when they're knocking out power and ripping apart houses, no doubt. But other times the thunder is a soundtrack to something unpredictable, something that gets our hearts racing and wakes us up. If someone had warned me about the weather, I might have freaked out and stayed inside."

Griffin and Theo's relationship was truly special—they shared many inside jokes, romantic and goofy moments, and Theo tried to help Griffin deal with his OCD. When Theo gets the opportunity to attend college in California on early admission, Griffin has a feeling that being out of sight might mean out of mind with Theo, so he breaks up with him. But Griffin knows Theo is his endgame, and that they'll eventually find their way back to each other and their love.

As Theo's first year of college unfolds, it's no surprise that he begins dating Jackson. Griffin does his best to be happy for his best friend, but he is hurting, and his pain is making his compulsions more intense. He knows that Jackson wants Theo to stop being friends with Griffin as well as their other best friend Wade. Griffin starts to wonder whether he should try and move on to, if the endgame he had always dreamed of has changed. And then, without warning, Theo drowns.

Theo's death throws Griffin into a tailspin. He doesn't want to do anything—go to school, leave the house, anything except mourn for his true love and his best friend. To make matters worse, Jackson comes to New York for Theo's funeral and then stays for a little while, to escape from where the tragedy happened. Yet despite their mutual jealousy of the other, Jackson and Griffin start to open up to one another, since they're the only ones who truly knew Theo this way, and they're the only ones who feel this kind of grief.

But no matter how much they confide in each other, the pain of Theo's loving someone else, coupled with Griffin's grief, is dragging him down. He wants nothing more than to shut the world out—Wade, his family, everyone and everything. He can't ignore the fact that his OCD is getting more out of control, though, and he's starting to hurt everyone else in the process. The only way he can attempt to move on is to try and come to terms with his and Theo's history, from start to finish—without varnishing over anything or avoiding the pain.

This is an intense book, but it's not all as sad as you'd expect. I might have teared up a time or two, but I was surprised I didn't become more emotional given the subject matter. I think that's because Adam Silvera tried not to make the book too heavy, even as Griffin and the other characters dealt with some serious grief, as well as unresolved anger.

Silvera is such an excellent writer. His book More Happy Than Not made my list of the best books I read in 2015.

The book shifts back and forth from when Theo and Griffin's relationship first began to the present, and you wonder how everything is going to occur. I'll admit I struggled with Griffin's character a bit, because his grief made him a little too difficult to dealt with, and his selfcenteredness, while understandable, made him less than sympathetic at times. But as Silvera lets the whole story unfold, you can understand why he acts the way he does.

I read about 90 percent of this book in a day. It's not an easy read emotionally, but Silvera immerses you in the story and makes you feel the emotions his characters do. The fact that the boys' sexuality was just presented in a matter-of-fact way, without experiencing any homophobia or people's difficulty accepting them, once again leads me to wish this type of YA fiction existed when I was a YA.

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