Title: History Is All You Left Me
Author: Adam Silvera
Publisher: Soho Teen
Release Date: January 17th 2017
Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me is an roller coaster of emotions. As Griffin tries to cope with the loss of his first love, readers are taken on a journey that alternates between the past and present: from the Griffin and Theo’s first kiss where the future held nothing but happy possibilities to the devastation Griffin experiences losing the one person who understood him. Once upon a time Griffin and Theo were inseparable, but life got complicated when Theo gained early admission into a college across the country. Despite how much he loved Theo, Griffin broke things off. Time passed and while Griffin still held on to hope they would be together again, Theo moved on with his new boyfriend Jackson. When Theo dies unexpectedly, all that hope and the ever-present memories of the two of them together become unbearable. Now Griffin must deal with his loss and every mistake he made that led him to where he is, but no one seems to quite understand like Theo’s boyfriend Jackson. As the two grow closer, Griffin is forced to confront the memories of his first love, both the good and the bad.
There are novels that punch you in the gut by surprise and others that you go into knowing the punch in the gut is a catalyst for a broader story. Silvera hits readers with a freight train in the very first few sentences. Every chapter devoted to the past that is filled with love and hope is bittersweet to the reader who knows where the story inevitably ends. Chapters set in the present are heavy with grief, an abridged version of the truth as it needs the past to put things into context. Griffin spends a lot time thinking about alternate universes. This is not only a callback to conversations he had with Theo, but a way Griffin copes with Theo’s death. He imagines that in some different world, the two of them are both alive and happy together. Silvera excels at making the reader care about his characters through all these mediums, expertly weaving through the ups and downs, and never letting up until the very end.
Griffin is in an incredibly vulnerable headspace from the very beginning of the novel. It isn’t hard to see how much Theo meant to him and how the loss has made his whole world seem like it has imploded. It’s easier for him to retreat from those around him than to let them help him grieve. Jackson shares his grief and even though there is a lot of resentment on Griffin’s part, there are still drawn together. Jackson will always represent an obstacle to Griffin and Theo’s hypothetical reunion. He will always hold precious memories of his ex-boyfriend that Griffin will never have himself. Whether he wants to admit it or not, Theo and Jackson were happy together. Griffin and Jackson’s connection is wrought with hurt and confusion. While it’s important for Griffin to work through his feelings, he tends to be self-destructive and this flaw hinders his own healing. Still, I found it really refreshing to read about a character who is allowed to be broken, misguided, and self-centered while working through his pain.
History Is All You Left Me is an emotionally complex novel about heartache and grief. Silvera continues to create multilayered stories and characters that the reader will not soon forget.