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History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

BOTTOM LINE: Messy. Angst-ridden. Tragic. Beautiful. Very real.

Genre: Young Adult; LGBTA; Romance
Publication Date: 17 January 2017
Source: Publisher

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“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.”

My Thoughts: Adam Silvera‘s novel on love and loss is a stellar portrait of the conflicting emotions that come with each. Griffin’s near-obsessive love for Theo perfectly encapsulates the experience of one’s first love. Mr. Silvera takes readers back to that mystical time when you think you will never love anyone as much as you love your first love. He captures the joy and fear that accompanies such relationships as well as the doubt and uncertainty. It is easy to get lost in Griffin’s tale as his story stirs all of those emotions.

At the same time, History is All You Left Me is very much a novel about grief as well as love. In that, Mr. Silvera holds back nothing. Griffin is not just mourning the loss of his first love, he is also mourning the loss of his childhood as well as of his best friend. We watch him run the gamut of emotions of the grieving process, and we are there by his side as he seeks out self-destructive methods in an attempt to ease his pain. Younger readers may not completely understand Griffin’s feelings, but Mr. Silvera does a fantastic job of subtly explaining to his readers just why Griffin is engaging in such behaviors. By making you feel Griffin’s pain alongside him, Mr. Silvera creates a safe place to grieve for a target audience who may have never had the chance to do so.

For older readers, Griffin’s reactions expose his youth and inexperience in life. There is a selfish element to his grieving process that is understandable and yet also very age-appropriate. For example, Griffin is caught up in his own thoughts for almost the entirety of the novel, thoughts which have a tendency to lean towards angst as well as grief. Again, this is completely understandable given that Griffin is not even eighteen at the opening of the novel. His rather sheltered upbringing provided protection and prevented him from having to face the hardships of adulthood at an earlier age, and it shows in his actions and reactions to others. This is not a terrible thing, but the angst does wear a bit after a while.

Even though readers of different generations will have very different reading experiences, History is All You Left Me is a novel with universal appeal. Its themes are timeless. Moreover, Mr. Silvera crafts the human experience so well. Griffin’s struggles are painful and real, which can make for some uncomfortable scenes. Yet Griffin is also painfully honest, which encourages an almost maternal nurturing instinct towards him. Through Griffin Mr. Silvera not only reminds readers of the messiness of love and the utter bereftness of loss, he forces them to experience them as well.

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