Title: History is All You Left Me (2017)
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Teen
Themes: Young Adult, M/M Romance
When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.
Adam Silvera is the king of realistic YA fiction. Yeah, I said it.
How do you even begin a review for a book that made you feel so much? It’s been a while since I’ve read something with tears in my eyes, so thank you, Adam Silvera, for making me feel human. From page one, I was hooked and ready to dub History is All You Left Me (referred to as HISTORY moving forward) my fave read of the year. Seriously, the first 222 pages were so good and emotional that I went into a bit of a reading slump… So, I demand a support group to help me get over my hurt feelings.
HISTORY begins with Griffin having learned that his former best friend and first love has died in a drowning accident. Instead of keeping us on a linear trajectory, Silvera divides his story between “Today”— a time in which Griffin has to confront life without Theo— and “History”— the moments both big and small leading up to this one. I have never liked books that do this because sometimes things are loss, but this book is so tight. Every piece of History is so seamlessly relevant to understand the hurts of Today (just like real life, no?)
In case you didn’t notice, this is a story about grief. There is no perfect way to deal with grief, and HISTORY perfectly captures the pain of not only Griffin but the other boys affected by Theo’s death– Jackson and Wade. It’s made pretty obvious early on that Theo was everyone’s anchor. It takes much for Griffin to learn to live in a world without him and his initial conflict comes with trying to deal with his feelings of hatred toward Theo’s current boyfriend—Jackson—while also coming to the conclusion that this is the one person who can understand at least a little of what he’s going through.
I promise this book isn’t all gloom and doom. It will rip your heart out, sure. But there are life moments in the “History” that will make you smile and forget the fact that in just a few pages, the present moments will be back and you’ll be sobbing again.
The writing was just so damn beautiful.
I know. People say that kind of shit all the time. What do they really mean? In this case, I mean that it felt as if every word was carefully chosen for this book. We didn’t get any of that excessive purple prose here. No one was waxing poetic at the drop of the dime. In fact, the story was so simplistic and approachable that you want to get lost in it.
Let’s talk characters– because I’m in love with them.
These characters were well-developed which is great considering HISTORY is a character-driven story. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve read a character-driven plot with characters I couldn’t care less about. Here, though, you don’t have to like Griffin all the time; but you still want to know where this is going. Silvera is AMAZING at taking his characters into himself and giving us an authentic voice in return (but we saw that with More Happy Than Not, no?). Tbh, I was thinking “Is this autobiographical because Griffin is perfect” the whole damn time. Also, I’m a sucker for flawed characters, and boy was this book chock-full of them.
In every review you read, you’ll get some talk about Griffin, and I’m going to add my tiny voice to the many. It was so great to find a piece of myself in the most unexpected way. The reason I sat in my car after meeting Adam Silvera and couldn’t return to BEA without bargaining to myself was because our main character, Griffin, has OCD with a compulsion I never thought I’d see in a book—one that keeps him from being on the right on anything and keeps him focused on even numbers (with a few odd number exceptions).
Much like every identity out there, there is no monolith when it comes to experiencing OCD. It isn’t always a organizing thing. Sometimes it is only standing on the left or not being able to deal with odd numbers. Or listening to someone give examples and having to convince yourself that the one you added in your head totally counts so the number count isn’t off or overfilling your gas tank because you have to make sure BOTH the amount of gas and the amount of money you’re paying makes sense or getting agitated if the volume in the car isn’t on a safe number (ear drums be damned) or crying and screaming to yourself in frustration because these numbers rule your goddamn existence and you don’t know why.
I hadn’t ever thought to see this part of me that I’ve never understood in a book. And you know what, Silvera NEVER ROMANTICIZES HAVING OCD. None of this is treated as a cute quirk or a plot device that smacks you in the beginning only to get tossed by the wayside. It was who Griffin was. It affected his relationship to everything and everyone.
Okay… It wasn’t all roses. I can admit that…
I was disappointed when it came to Wade—original black best friend of Theo and the third man in Theo’s and Griffin’s three-man group. The development of Wade was off for me. I know, I praised the characters because they were all wonderful (and now my adopted sons). There were some subtle characterizations of him that made me fall in love with him like…
Let me tell you right now, representation is important af, so thank you, Adam, for taking the time to include this little tidbit in here because this made Wade so real to me. But as I was reading the end, Wade just fell flat? I wanted more from him (and for him), and he just read like a third-wheel throughout the entire book… even in the parts where he was obviously supposed to be at least a little bit important. God, Wade is my precious cinnamon roll, and I want to protect him from the world, tbh.
Also, for all of the good things I have about HISTORY, I did feel like something was missing when I finished the last page… But… that could have just been the icebox where my heart used to be. All in all, this book was great. Please consider pre-ordering it, reading it, and talking to me about it. Because I can guarantee I will never shut up about it until the day I die.
After completing History is All You Left Me, I would like to dedicate the following song to Adam Silvera. Thank you and good night.
All the Disclaimers: Many thanks to Soho Teen, the author, and BEA for this ARC. That has in no way influenced my rating. This review is based on an advance uncopyedited proof. Quotes/scenes may have been altered in the final copy, and I will update my review accordingly once my precious book-son is out into the world TOMORROW— January 17, 2017. Psst. Go pre-order it.