Right, now onto this review! This book was heartbreaking, wonderful, and authentic, all rolled into one. Adam Silvera is truly one of the best writers out there right now. He writes from in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching a movie unfold by each page turn. You feel like he just GETS teenagers and young adults. I’m no longer a teen, but I’m not too far away yet from when I was, and I still feel like there are times when I feel things as intensely as a teenager feels them. That’s not to say that adults don’t feel things after they reach the ripe age of 21, but when you’re a teenager, you’re learning and growing and experiences are always new and fresh and vivid. Adam captures that vividness of being a teenager in his writing so eloquently.
I read his first novel, ‘More Happy Than Not’ in January and I devoured it in 3 days. Upon picking up ‘History Is All You Left Me’, I realized that instead of trying to picture an actor in my head for the main character, I pictured Adam. This sounds super weird, I know and I’m sure if he ever read this review he’d probably be like, “Okaaaaay then…”, but I just get the feeling, and I may be completely wrong about this because unfortunately I don’t know him personally, that when Adam writes, puts a little bit of himself into each of the characters. But when I read ‘More Happy Than Not’ he was Aaron Soto, and in ‘History Is All You Left Me’, he was Griffin.
This story is about a teenager named Griffin who we meet right after the death of his first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo. Theo died in a tragic drowning accident in California that leaves Griffin devastated, angry, and full of questions. He’s devastated because he always believed that despite Theo moving to California for college and falling in love with someone new, Griffin would be Theo’s endgame. They were supposed to end up together. But life has both a funny and not so funny way of showing us that anything can happen in the blink of an eye. Griffin is angry because he harbors some jealousy over Theo’s new boyfriend, Jackson. In a way, he blames Jackson for Theo’s death because not only was Jackson with Theo when he drowned, he also couldn’t save him. Griffin is full of questions because although he tries to convince himself that he doesn’t want to befriend Jackson in any way, he knows that Jackson has the answer to Griffin’s most raised question: Did Theo really love Griffin?
The chapters in this story are all told in Griffin’s point of view, but each chapter goes back and forth in time. Chapters headed with “History” are told in the past whereas chapters headed with “Today” are told in the present. It was also interesting that the chapters told from the present were legitimately present-day. By the end the final chapter actually takes place on January 1, 2017. Another reason why I liked the back and forth in time between chapters is because as the reader, you learn more about what led to Griffin and Theo’s relationship coming to fruition and eventually, its end. We learn more about their friendship and the secrets that Griffin keeps from Theo while Theo’s in California as well as the secrets Theo keeps from Griffin.
Griffin was the kind of character I really felt for. Griffin has anxiety and OCD, and part of the reason why it was so hard for him to let go of Theo, was because while his and Theo’s relationship was budding, Griffin’s OCD was coming to a head. He was starting to realize that his compulsions were more than quirks. For example, when Griffin would walk with Theo, Theo would always have to be on his right. Theo helped Griffin deal with his OCD in a way I really loved because instead of forcing him to get out of his comfort zone and not break his compulsions, he let Griffin be Griffin. He walked on Griffin’s right and nicknamed him ‘Griffin On The Left’. Griffin also had the compulsion of even numbers. The way Adam Silvera expressed Griffin’s mental illnesses was entirely realistic to me. I’ve never been formally diagnosed, but I’ve always known growing up that I have some forms of OCD. I related specifically to Griffin’s compulsion with even numbers because mine has always been the opposite. I like things to be odd-numbered. (i.e. TV channels, microwave/oven settings etc)
Another way I felt for Griffin was just his journey of moving on after Theo. He always had that moment of “What if?” when it came to things regarding his future whether it was concerning love or college or even just living day-to-day. I’ve never been in a relationship, but what I can imagine in terms of the feelings in he aftermath of a breakup, they are raw, they are irrational, they are spontaneous. Griffin wants to move on from Theo, but he doesn’t want to forget him and he doesn’t want Theo to forget him either.
Wade is a part, and in some ways, the very glue that holds the best friend trio that is Griffin, Theo, and Wade, together. Wade was somewhat underrated. I really felt for him at times because he sensed when Theo and Griffin were becoming something more than friends and he made a point to show his true and honest happiness for the both of them, while also keeping his distance. I related to that so much, because I think we’ve all been there when one of our best friends gets into a relationship and you want to be there, but you also feel like you’re losing your place in the group. You can’t help but feel left out. It’s especially difficult when those two people who are now together happen to be in your friend group. And as another person in that group, you can’t help but feel left out and somewhat abandoned. There’s also that fear of having to take sides if those two friends break up. Wade was patient with Griffin and Theo both together and separately while they were figuring out their “stuff”. However, this isn’t to say that Wade let his friends walk all over him and make everything about their relationship. Wade spoke his mind. He let his friends know when they were being jerks and leaving him out. He has more courage that I ever had when I’ve found myself in his position, and I’ve been in his position too many times to count.
Theo is both gentle and kind. He listens to his friends and he remains true to Griffin in their relationship, for the most part. I liked Theo for his patience with Griffin when it came to his compulsions. Like I said earlier, he never tried to change Griffin or put him down for dealing with his OCD and anxiety. By the end though, I grew to resent Theo a little bit. There’s always that hidden, albeit kind of immediate dislike for the new significant other of the main character’s ex. I felt that way with Jackson at first because although Theo and Griffin had broken up prior to Theo’s move to California, it just seemed like he moved on too quickly. We also learn that Theo shared a special part from his relationship with Griffin with Jackson that Griffin had always assumed was kept solely between them, and it almost feels like a betrayal.
Jackson was an interesting character to me. Upon first being introduced to him, you almost hate him because the story is told from Griffin’s point of view, so right then we can’t help but dislike him based off of Griffin’s feelings toward him. We learn that Jackson didn’t always feel secure in his relationship with Theo. Sometimes when we love someone and they move on, you can’t help but compare their new relationship to how your relationship once was, but you often don’t realize that your ex’s new partner is probably doing the same thing, but just the opposite.
Altogether, this was 5/5 stars for me. The way Adam Silvera captured the essence of grief and guilt as well as the stages one goes through in moving on not just from the death of a loved one, but from the death of a relationship as well in his writing, was terrifically done. I enjoyed the way he connected and brought Griffin and Jackson together slowly. I went into this novel kind of with the expectation that it you would assume from just reading the synopsis, but that’s the beauty of Adam Silvera’s writing. He doesn’t twist his readers around with an “I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING” ending, but he does show them that life is never foreseeable, and sometimes the end results of events that happen to us are devastating a captivating, but their also achievable.
“People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished. Sometimes that’s for the best. Some pieces can’t be forced into a puzzle, or at least they shouldn’t be, because they won’t make sense.”
― Adam Silvera,
“I’m blown away by how happy you make me. Thank you for being there for me when I’m stupid enough to think I’d rather be alone.”
― Adam Silvera,
“There’s got to be some scientific study somewhere that proves your boyfriend’s sweater will keep you warmer and cure you of any illnesses a lot faster, than some Pottery Barn blanket.”
― Adam Silvera,
“Then there’s the kind of zombie I’ve become now: the one who has lost everything—his brain, his heart, his light, his direction. He wanders the world, bumping into this, tripping over that, but keeps going and going. That is life after death.”
― Adam Silvera,