Published by Soho Teen on January 17th 2017
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.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I really enjoyed Adam’s debut novel, More Happy Than Not, and Adam himself is one of my favorite humans, so I was really looking forward to History Is All You Left Me. I’m happy to say that this book did not disappoint, and also that it lives up to the Silvera legacy of making you sob uncontrollably at times. Get the tissues ready, y’all.
History Is All You Left Me is wonderfully told in a non-linear fashion: through two separate timelines, “History” and “Today.” It follows our main character, Griffin, as he navigates the loss of his best friend and first love, Theo (not a spoiler; it’s in the synopsis). However, though Griffin is our narrator, the book also follows two other boys– Jackson, Theo’s most recent boyfriend, and Wade, Griffin and Theo’s other best friend– as they come to terms with the loss of Theo. All three of these characters process grief in immensely different ways, and all of them have equally compelling stories. Griffin’s unlikely friendship with Jackson was one of my favorite parts of the book. It really showed how messy and complicated the loss of a loved one can be, and how sometimes, friendship and happiness can be found amidst the most unlikely of circumstances. Also, while we’re on the subject of characters, I adored Griffin’s parents. I find the family aspects of History is All You Left Me to be immensely underrated. More supportive, loving families who are actively present in the protagonist’s life in YA, please. Overall, there were no characters I disliked in this book, which was refreshing. I didn’t always agree with their decisions, but grief and loss make us do strange things.
In my eyes, the non-linear storytelling is one of the most brilliant aspects of History. This could easily have been an immensely dark book (well, darker than it already is) if it was only told through Griffin’s present reality. However, the “History” chapters intersperse the book with happy moments (Griffin and Theo’s first date, them falling in love in New York City, etc.) amongst all of the raw pain in the “Today” chapters. This also provided a great opportunity for the reader to get to know the characters outside of how they were affected by Theo’s death.
Obviously, because this is an Adam Silvera novel, the portrayals of both sexuality and mental health are brilliant. All of the main characters in History are queer, which some people might see as “unrealistic,” but as a queer person myself, I can assure you that we tend to travel in packs. I loved the discussions of sexuality throughout this book, particularly one between Griffin and Theo about Theo’s bisexuality– it really addressed the weird stigma bi/pan people face from the queer community. Additionally, Griffin has OCD and is dealing with increasingly worse compulsions throughout the book. It was refreshing to see such an honest portrayal of mental illness, one that was drawn directly from Silvera’s personal experience. The excellent representation of sexuality and mental illness in History is a testament to the authenticity of #ownvoices novels, and to the importance of reading #ownvoices narratives.
Oh, and I feel compelled to mention that though History Is All You Left Me is heartbreaking and dark, it is, ultimately, an incredibly hopeful book. It won’t leave you in a pit of despair upon finishing it. The ending was not only fitting, but heartening.
History is a reflective, melancholy, quietly powerful book. It explores the topics of friendship, love, mental health, relationships, and grief in such a poignant, honest way. This story and these characters will stick with me for a long while.
Bonus picture from the signing I went to with Adam and Becky Albertalli <3
Psssst… keep an eye on my Twitter over the next day or so, because I mightttt be giving away a signed copy of History Is All You Left Me over there. You know, maybe. 😉
Have you read History Is All You Left Me? If so, what are your thoughts?