Title: “History is All You Left Me”
Author: Adam Silvera
Pages (paperback): 294 pages
Original Publishing Date: 17 January 2017
Synopsis (from the back cover):
“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 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, ever last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.”
Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:
- experiences of compulsions
- (throughout the novel)
- brief suicidal thoughts
- passing thoughts
- throughout the novel
- possibly bi-antagonistic scene (?)
- pg. 67
Representation in the novel:
- mental illness rep
- OCD (ownvoices)
- gay rep
- bi rep
Wow, this book.
History is All You Left Me nearly destroyed me, I’m pretty sure. There were a lot of things that I loved, and only a few things that I didn’t.
First of all, the writing? I adored it. I love the 2nd person POV as if Griff is talking to Theo, his (now) deceased ex-boyfriend in the present. But when the reader gets to the “history” chapters, going through Theo’s and Griff’s past, it changes to 1st person. I think that’s so interesting, and it does something. It makes the reader realize that Griff, throughout this entire book, is simply talking to Theo, wherever he is after his death. And thinking about that too much, to me, is absolutely heartbreaking.
The second thing I loved was the characters as a whole? None of them are perfect. Griffin isn’t perfect, Jackson isn’t perfect, Wade isn’t perfect, and Theo isn’t perfect (even if, throughout the book, Griff tries to think he is). They all have flaws. And what I love about this is that these flaws have real consequences; they aren’t these things that are just things plopped into the story to be “special” or what have you. These flaws affect both the person who has them and those around them.
I also really, really enjoyed how grief was displayed throughout the novel. It’s shown as something that is complicated and, sometimes, messy. Griff, for example, pushes a lot of his friends and family away as he becomes more destructive and impulsive after his break-up with Theo, as well as after Theo dies. In my opinion, it is written in a way that the reader knows that Griff has done some questionable things, and that shouldn’t be excused, but they can still sympathize with him as well.
And, uh, the OCD rep? I can’t speak on it personally, because I don’t have OCD, but I just want to say that I appreciate it, and I appreciate how Silvera is able to put that part of himself into Griff. Outside of Turtles All the Way Down by John Green last year, I don’t know many other books with main characters with OCD, let alone a novel that is ownvoices, so I appreciated seeing and experiencing that rep.
The only thing I really had an issue with was a small scene on page 67 of the paperback. To give some context, Theo and Griff were talking about the “birds and the bees” talk their parents gave them when Theo reveals to Griffin that he may be bisexual. This throws Griffin for a loop, and his though process about his boils down to him having “more competition,” which to me, sort of feeds off the “bisexual people are going to cheat” trope a little bit? But this is where it gets tricky: to me, that’s just Griff’s anxiety over not being perfect for Theo and as such, he’ll eventually leave him for someone else. It’s not really against bi people themselves. However, it still caught me by surprise, so I wanted to talk about it, just in case.
Honestly, though, I thought this book was great. It was sad, not in a heart-wrenching and dramatic way, but it just sort of seeps into your bones as you read because you watch Griff sort of fall apart as the book goes on. I figured out that that’s sort of Adam Silvera’s “thing,” so I think I will see if I can grab his other books. Overall, I really enjoyed History is All You Left Me.