Book Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
A former student sent me this book as a surprise gift, and I’m grateful, although I’m overwhelmed by all the feelings I had while reading it. Another friend warned me I wouldn’t be able to read it all in one go, and he was right. I found myself reading about 30 or 40 pages and putting it down to process and to regain some emotional distance. This book takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Partially because you go from present day Griffin, who mourns the death of his best friend and former boyfriend Theo, to past Griffin, who comes out to Theo, begins to date him, and allows us to see how their relationship formed.
Silvera masterfully crafts the novel with just the right amount of information. He keeps us waiting to figure out why things are awkward with Wade, what he said to Theo on the phone, and whether Jackson will be a part of his life, too (after all, Jackson was dating Theo when Theo died). He also waits to give us the whole story of the day Theo dies out in California. The suspense created kept me going back to the book even though it was at times depressing. Additionally, Silvera writes all his characters compassionately. Whether it is Griffin explaining his compulsions (scratching, counting, walking on the left) or Griffin talking about Theo’s family (and younger sister Denise). These are complex young people who have real conversations, real struggles, and real sex (yup, there’s some sex scenes in here, just in case you thought about handing this to a much younger reader). Plus, there’s plenty of references to Harry Potter, Star Wars, and imaginary worlds with zombie-pirates, so that made me pretty happy to read a book with nerdy people like me.
I would highly recommend this book for the writing, the storytelling, but also for the process of grieving. Often in the book people tell Griffin to just move on, get over it, let it go. That’s much easier said than done, and this novel shows us why we struggle when someone we love dies sooner than we anticipated. And we need other people to help us through, just like Silvera writes: “There’s nothing wrong with someone saving my life, I’ve realized, especially when I can’t trust myself to get the job done right. People need people. That’s that.”