Friday, April 5, 2019

Book Review: "The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried" by Shaun David Hutchinson

Dino and July were best friends, absolutely inseparable. Until everything changed, and their friendship ended. For a year, July was dead to Dino, and he focused on his new boyfriend, Rafi, and Rafi's group of friends, although he couldn't help feeling like something was missing. When July died suddenly, Dino was left with unresolved emotions about their friendship and why everything went wrong.

And then the unthinkable happens—July awakens the day before her funeral while at Dino's parents' funeral home. She's not dead, but she's not quite alive, and she's not happy to find herself in Dino's company again. But what could be the reason for her coming back to life, of sorts? As much as they're angry with each other, they team up to figure out what's going on, especially as they realize this problem may have wider implications than they could even imagine.

As July struggles with the side-effects of once being dead, Dino has his own struggles—trying to convince his parents that he doesn't want to go into the funeral business, and feeling like he's not worthy of being loved, which complicates his relationship with with Rafi. More than that, however, he wants to understand why his relationship with July went so wrong, because he knows that as much as she aggravated him, he has missed her more than anything.

What if you got a second chance with someone who once meant so much to you? Would you try to understand what went wrong and resolve your feelings, or would the hurt and the anger be too intense to forgive and forget? Would you be willing to accept some responsibility for what transpired, or would your pride get in the way?

In his newest novel, The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried, Shaun David Hutchinson brings his trademark mix of the surreal and the emotional. While there are some crazy elements to the plot, at its heart this is a book about friendship, belonging, regret, self-worth, and accepting our own shortcomings. It definitely made me wish for another chance with some people who used to be an important part of my life.

Hutchinson is one of my favorite authors—We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe are two of the best books I've read in recent years. I love the characters he creates and I find his storytelling mesmerizing.

That being said, this book didn't work as well for me as his previous ones. Even though there was poignancy in the story, I found July's character so off-putting and unsympathetic that I couldn't understand why Dino even wanted to be friends with her, and I felt that there were too many instances of her being mean to Dino, his getting angry, and then coming back to her again.

You can always count on Hutchinson for a story that doesn't seem like all the others, as well as one that touches your emotions. While I didn't feel this book was among his best, it's still another example of why I think he's one of the best YA authors out there right now.

1 comment:

  1. Tedious, repetitive, inconsistent within own premise, poorly written with underdeveloped/inauthentic characters, and full of sanctimonious social justice lectures which have nothing to do with the story. 90% of this awful book is 2 characters bickering over trivial nonsense and perceived sleights for 300 pages. Hutchinson seems to have peaked with We Are The Ants. Each successive book marks a decline.