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’m going to begin this review by mentioning the fact that Silvera’s debut novel, More Happy Than Not, broke my heart towards the very end of the story, so I had a bit of time to emotionally prepare myself for the inevitable stream of tears that would occur. However, History Is All You Left Me managed to shatter my heart into a billion tiny pieces within the first few pages. Yes, you read that right. Pages. I had read that this book was fairly heart-breaking, but I definitely was not prepared for the intensely raw emotions that this book would provoke within me. History Is All You Left Me is one of the most accurate novels in regards to grief and the grieving process that I’ve read within my lifetime. Silvera is able to easily connect readers with emotions that they can relate to, even if the reader isn’t able to fully relate to the events that occur within the novel. This book is own voices with an LGBTQ+ main character who has OCD and it contains raw emotions, flawed characters, and a sense of hopefulness that provides a source of light within the darkness of loss and grief. (Quick note: yes, J.K. Rowling totally inspired that last sentence of mine.)
The rest of this review is spoiler-free.
To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect from this book. I knew it involved the main character’s ex-boyfriend dying suddenly, but that’s really all I knew before I read this novel. But, with that being said, I’m really glad that this is all I knew before reading this book. This novel contained many ups and downs and sudden revelations that I quickly found myself flipping through the pages in order to absorb this story as fast as I could.
I don’t really want to go into detail about what the plot of this book entails, but I will say that this book is very focused on really heavy topics such as loss and grief, but it also features themes of hope and learning how to move forward in order to accept and learn from past mistakes.
Each of the characters within this novel was flawed. This isn’t something that the author tries to hide nor are their flaws sugarcoated; they’ve made mistakes and they continue to make mistakes, but they are also able to learn from their mistakes and try to become better people in the future. And that right there is what I absolutely loved about the characters within this novel. I noticed whilst reading More Happy Than Not that Silvera has a certain way of writing characters so they seem realistic and relatable and the same can definitely be said about the cast of characters portrayed within this novel.
The main character within this novel, Griffin, was a brilliantly written character. The “History” chapters show how he slowly evolves into the person that he is in the “Present” chapters, but they also show how he struggled with his own self-journey. Griffin has OCD and I think that the representation of OCD within this novel was very well done, especially considering it was based off of the author’s own experience with having OCD. It’s obvious that the author poured his heart into this novel and the utter rawness that I felt whilst reading is definitely a result of that. I think that my favorite part of Griffin’s character was his experiences with grief and I could really relate to how he went through the grieving process. There were moments of shock, disbelief, guilt, anger, and so many more emotions that an individual could go through as they grieve and I was really able to connect and relate to Griffin’s character through a mutuality that I felt with him due to these very raw and real emotions.
I really liked the fact that the other characters in this novel, such as Theo, Jackson, and Wade, weren’t completely overshadowed by the main character. Each of these characters had their stories told throughout every chapter and this made them each seem very well-rounded and more than just background or side characters.
While I enjoyed More Happy Than Not, I loved History Is All You Left Me even more for numerous reasons, one of those reasons being that Silvera’s writing style has grown tremendously. The writing within this novel was so, so beautiful and there were certain sentences or paragraphs that would be so complex and perceptive that I’d have to re-read them a few times in order to fully grasp what the author is trying to communicate and the message that he is sending. I was a bit worried that the differentiating time periods that took place as the chapters went on would cause disruptions as I read, but I think that each chapter ended in a way that made the transition back and forth between history and present day occur extremely well and I never found myself getting confused or impeded by the different time periods.
Overall, this was a diverse book full of emotion that left me feeling solemn yet hopeful at the same time. History Is All You Left Me is a novel that had such a strong impact on me and it’s definitely going to be one of my favorite novels of 2017. I’d also like to quickly point out the fact that this book is diverse with positive representation, sex-positive, and the different subjects that it touches on (grief, loss, OCD, etc.) are dealt with in a very accurate, healing, and respectful manner. And, as if those elements in of themselves weren’t already amazing, this book also has Harry Potter references. So… yeah, okay, please go read this book. It made me feel so many emotions at once and it is honest and raw and truly stunning.
“I’ll never understand how time can make a moment feel as close as yesterday and as far as years.”
So, have you read History Is All You Left Me? What did you think about it? Comment your spoiler-free thoughts below so we can discuss!