by Adam Silvera
Published 2017 by Soho Teen
320 pages. Hardcover
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
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.
Griffin’s grief is palpable from the first chapter of History. He can barely talk himself into attending the funeral and, when he does, he’s adamant about wearing Theo’s hoodie. Griffin is everything one would expect in the situation and more. He’s vulnerable, he’s barely keeping it together, and he’s almost given up on everything else in his life. Since the book is narrated by Griffin, many of the other characters are displayed through his lens. For instance, Theo takes on this ghostly quality that’s almost two-dimensional. For much of the book, Griffin is remembering all the good things and it seems like Theo can do no wrong. On the other hand, we’re set up to dislike Jackson because of Griffin’s bias. Of course, it turns out Jackson is more than just the boy who stole Theo away.
The story is told through alternating chapters of what Griffin is experiencing present day and his memories of his relationship with Theo. The present day starts out the morning of Theo’s funeral and the history starts out the day that Griffin and Theo start dating. The alternating chapters work well to unravel the events that lead to where the novel starts and where Griffin ends up. They also often gave the book a sense of urgency, especially when pivotal moments were revealed. I found it to be a quick read; I read most of it within a span of 24 hours.
There’s something about Silvera’s stories and characters that always feel authentic, even when he’s writing speculative fiction (see More Happy Than Not). His stories don’t always go where I want or where I expect. When does life ever go the way we want? That said, I always have this feeling in the end that the story ended in the “right place.” His writing also has this quality of raw honesty. They’re emotional and sometimes quite sad. There are so many little things about his books that make me want to stop and cheer, too. There are present parents who care about their kids and are always keeping tabs on them. There is a diverse cast of characters that truly reflects what we see in the world around us. His depictions of the sexual relationships between the boys were on point (even if they were sometimes unhealthy). Griffin and Theo anticipate their first time with both excitement and nerves. Once they’ve had the experience, both approach their sexual relationship with enthusiasm. It’s mild sexual content, but often something that’s missing from YA.
I honestly feel that Silvera is a unique voice in YA. His books are beautiful and one-of-a-kind. If you like realistic fiction that can make you both laugh and cry, you’ll enjoy this. I highly recommend it.