When I’m in a reading slump, I always turn to LGBT books for a pick-me-up. I’m not entirely sure why reading about LGBT characters helps me regain my excitement for reading, though it’s probably a mixture of me being able to easily relate and me being so sick of reading about straight couples, not because they are straight, but because their relationships are not treated with the same realism that LGBT couples are written with.
Anyway, to get to the point, I was in a gigantic reading slump and decided to pick up History Is All You Left Me, despite knowing that it was a really emotional book (I tend to stay away from any contemporaries that involve death). And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.
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 his new boyfriend, Jackson, Griffin never doubted that 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.
1) The Relationships
I think this stems back to what I said earlier about LGBT relationships being written with such care compared to straight relationships. The relationships in this book were so raw and real that it sucked you right in and before you knew it, you were blushing at their first kiss, cringing at their awkward first time having sex and writhing with fury during their first argument along with them. The romantic relationships were only one piece of the puzzle. The friendships, specifically between Theo, Griffin and Wade, felt so organic, it was like you were a part of the group. Their dialogue was natural and hilarious, and the way Silvera portrayed the awkwardness of teenagehood through their interactions with one another was almost frighteningly relatable. Even the tense but growing friendship between Griffin and Jackson was unafraid in portraying the animosity between them and this only heightened the relatability of their grief. I think the main reason that of this all worked was because of…
2) The Writing Style
The writing flowed. We saw the story from the point of view of Griffin before and after Theo’s death, and the tone Silvera created in each effortlessly drove you into Griffin’s mind. It was somewhat stream of consciousness – the kind of writing you’d usually expect from a contemporary, only usually in contemporaries that unguarded, thought-like style of writing comes across as awkward and cringy. In this book, it was so damn good, and it wasn’t afraid to leave in all the ugly thoughts too, which really gave you a sense of Griffin’s character. Which leads me to my next point…
3) The Characters
It’s as simple as this: I specifically related to these characters. Griffin has bad anxiety and obsessive compulsions, I have bad anxiety and obsessive compulsions (though much milder than he does). I could easily understand Griffin’s need to always stand on the right of people, or his need for the world to be sorted in even numbers (I, personally, get a small OCD kick out of doing things when the clock reaches a multiple of 5, so 5 past, 10 past, 15 past…). I also related so deeply to Theo’s constant logic and his need to be the best, to win
. If you’ve read my ‘Welcome to My Blog’
post you’ll understand why. But these characters were more than just relatable to me. I loved that they were flawed. They made gigantic mistakes that left you wanting to reach into the pages of the book and shake some sense into them. But those mistakes made them all the more human, and also heightened the overall highlight of this book…
4) The Emotions
I HATE EMOTIONS. Seriously, I try to avoid them at all costs, especially if those emotions are linked somehow to someone’s death because then my anxiety decides to say hello and I end up convincing myself that someone I love is going to die just because I was reading a book about death 🙂 And yet there was something so cathartic about the emotions in this book. The alternating chapters between Griffin’s story before Theo’s death and after Theo’s death made it all the more heartwrenching. One chapter, we were watching Griffin fall in love with Theo, we were falling in love with Theo, and the next, we were watching Griffin speak his eulogy. SO. HEARTWRENCHING. The realness of the characters also added to the heartbreak of Theo’s death, because it reminded us that this was a boy (albeit, fictional) with a family and friends and dreams and mistakes and yet his death was a freak accident. It was just so real. Watching Griffin pick up the pieces afterwards left you with the same feelings he had: how do you possibly continue after this? I just really appreciated that Silvera wasn’t afraid to show that grief was messy and life-changing and definitely not romantic (like so many YA books make death out to be), and yet, it is overcomeable. Honestly, I was probably laughing more tears of happiness than tears of sadness.
1) The Repetition of One Particular Plot Point…
This was just a small pet-peeve of mine. No spoilers, but there was just one certain action that a character undertook over and over again. The first time it was used, it was heartbreaking as a plot point, but the more it was used, the more it lost its punch, and it got to the point where it was almost funny. I’m not sure if Silvera intended this or not, but it was just that small thing that bugged me in amongst the waves of all the good!
I rate this book:
It was relatable, it showed real LGBT relationships and characters, it was well written, and it released a lot of emotions that I didn’t know were bottled up inside of me. Thanks for making me cry, Adam.
Let me know what you thought in the comments!
Thanks for reading,