A few days a go I finished reading History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. I had never read one of Adam Silvera’s books before this but heard from numerous people that his books are super sad and will almost definitely make you cry. After reading HIAYLM I can confirm that this is the TRUTH. I also had the pleasure of going to Adam Silvera’s first UK book event at Waterstone’s Piccadilly where he did a Q&A, a signing and revealed the UK cover for his new book coming out the September, They Both Die at the End.
History is All You Left Me follows seventeen year old Griffin whose best friend and ex-boyfriend, Theo, has just died in a drowning accident. In his grief, the only one who can truly understand how Griffin is feeling is Theo’s new boyfriend, Jackson. It’s really about Griffin learning how to deal with his and Theo’s history in relation to having to go on after Theo’s death.
The chapters of this book alternate between the past and the present and I think they were perfectly orchestrated to deliver as much pain and emotion as humanly possible. There would be the funniest sweetest moments between Griffin and Theo which would then cut to “it’s been a whole week since you died”. Despite the tears, I actually really enjoyed how this book was spliced up because it added this element of mystery to the story in order to hook you, you wanna learn what lead up to where we are now.
Griffin’s narrative voice in this book was so good. I thought that he had that perfect blend of this geeky teenage boy mixed with this quite profound almost poetic voice that just really carved the tone of the book. On the other hand, there was Theo who at first I did really like but as we got further in to the story and started to learn more about his and Griffin’s history, I really started to dislike him. He came across as a really manipulative character and whilst it was obvious that he did care about Griffin, there was this selfishness about him that wanted to keep Griffin waiting around for him whilst he was in college in California dating another person.
I expected to really dislike Jackson but I turned out to really like him, much more than Theo. I think some of the things that Griffin said about him that made me want to dislike him felt justified once we learned more about Theo. There were things out of Jackson’s control that Theo wasn’t very sympathetic of, towards either Jackson or Griffin.
I feel like control (or perhaps lack of control) is kind of a big theme in this book. Griffin unable to keep OCD compulsions under control, unable to control grief, Theo drowning, unable to control other people’s feelings. I’m not really sure the point I’m trying to make here but it just seemed interesting that Griffin, who feels like he can gain control of his life through giving in to his compulsions, has absolutely no control on anything at all.
This leads me on to what I really like about this book is that it deals with mental health issues but it’s not a mental health book. OCD is something that is apart of Griffin but it isn’t the start and finish of him in the same way that his sexuality (and other character’s sexuality) isn’t the start and finish of him. Whilst coming out novels are important in literature particularly to young people, it is great just to see LGBT representation in books for what it is and to normalise it.
Although this took me a few days to read, it could definitely be read in one sitting if you have the emotional capacity because it’s not very long but it’s very sad, like rips your heart out, spits on your neck and kicks you in the crotch sad. BUT STILL REALLY GOOD. I was thoroughly impressed by this book and can’t wait to read more books by the lovely Adam Silvera.