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Book Review – History is All You Left Me

I have a myriad of thoughts in my brain about this book I can’t assemble together, a lot like the pieces of history our main character, Griffin, couldn’t sort into one finished puzzle. I don’t know how I feel about it. I can tell you this much, it was a lot of things at the same time. A lot of good, a lot of bad, a lot of everything in between, and I sort of think that was the point. 

History is All You Left Me was split into two wavering points of view, one based in Today and one based in History, so there’s a reason I felt a little thrown off, because things didn’t come together until literally the last page, which made me feel like I was grasping for some truth the entire time. However, I am convinced this book is worth a second read, just from knowing what I know now. 

I actually had to start this book over after hitting page fifty-two, because there are so many subtle inside jokes, characters, descriptions, and metaphors you have to be cognizant to register, otherwise you do lose part of the story. So by page fifty-two, because I wasn’t reading it mindfully enough, I was already lost in the lingo. 

I think the lingo took just as much away from the story as it added. By the end I didn’t really feel any type of way about it. There were too many moments that went right over my head. I swear I reread more paragraphs in this book than I ever have before trying to figure out what the author was attempting to explain. 

The story follows Griffin, a boy riddled with OCD compulsions, as he grieves his ex-boyfriend, Theo’s sudden death with the help of Theo’s boyfriend, Jackson. 

And I should also mention, as the book is written in first person, Griffin, the narrator, is actually telling the story by talking to Theo, which was interesting. A lot of “your parents” “your house” “you did this” “you did that”–it was different, sort of hard to keep up with at times, but I don’t think it took anything away or added anything in the long run–like I said. 

I think my favorite part about this book was also my least favorite part about this book–the quirkiness. Where at times it added something so infectious and adorable, there were other times where I felt like it was just completely taking away from the story. I didn’t feel it needed to be SO quirky. I felt if there had been some moderation, the story would have greatly benefited. 

It is a good story. Adam Silvera, the author, did justice to OCD, and he did justice to the grieving process–two incredibly difficult feats to take on, and he did it with grace. 

I didn’t feel like Griffin’s pain went away over night. I didn’t feel like he reacted inappropriately at any point. I didn’t feel like there were any unrealistic moments, and it’s an amazing testament to the author’s level of understanding. As somebody who suffers from some minor compulsions, but has major anxiety, I feel he did an honorable job with this anxious character. 

The first love was just the all-encompassing, head-over-heels romance I wanted and needed it to be. It was fast-paced and provocative. It was explorative and adventurous. It’s a love I wanted to be apart of. 

I’ve told Theo I love him four times, and it was easier with each one. I picture each word like a fearless skydiver. An assembly of brave words just dove out of the clouds and landed in my bed.

But, man, Theo and I getting dressed together is kind of a quiet miracle, what people don’t even know to dream about until it happens in real time. 

I also felt like the ending was perfect. I’ve heard a lot of complaints about it, but to me, it’s sort of a romantic privilege to be upset when the ending isn’t necessarily “happily ever after.” There’s a big surprise that hits you by the end, but in a really good way. I did feel there should’ve been a bit more foreshadowing, just because the ending seems really bleak for a few too many pages before the surprise reveals itself. 

I think Adam Silvera has a really strong handle on YA fiction for the most part, but I think there were a few too many darlings he should’ve killed. A few too many places where I was just thinking, was it necessary to make this comparison. Was it necessary to describe this this way. Etc. I think he understand teenagers–they’re completely overwhelmed with strange thoughts, we all are, and he made those strange thoughts kind of awe-inspiring in a way. And Griffin’s character arc was a great coming-of-age. He grows up tremendously.

I did like his prose a lot. Like I said, some really strong moments and some really weak moments. 

“… he broke me in a way everyone should be lucky to be cracked open at least once. I had the privilege of being destroyed by him until we found a better, real me inside of the person I was pretending to be.”

“When accidents happen, people know where to leave flowers, but not me. Everything happened so quickly.”

“It’s weird how all the information Theo spent downloading into his stupid beautiful brain is now gone.”

The dialogue was definitely the strongest element in this story. I found most my beautiful lines woven into their peculiar brains as they tried to make sense of this loss. This moment in time they still can’t believe happened. And I think comparing history to a puzzle is sort of an ingenious thing, because Griffin is right, there are a lot of puzzle pieces you don’t witness when it comes to somebody else’s history, and he’s just as right in feeling like it’s sort of a tragedy, that you can know someone so well, but they are a different someone when they’re with other people. You claim this person in your mind, but they’re being claimed elsewhere, too. And he’s right in both wanting to collect those puzzle pieces from others, and leave them be, because they’re sacred. 

So: Jackson is one of those eighteen-year-olds who speaks about being fourteen like it was ten lifetimes ago. I bet you found that charming.

(Humor was well-endowed lol)

I no longer need to study every inch of your path that led you to climbing into his car on that rainy day–I finally see what you saw in him.

The metaphor was a beautiful one to instill throughout this story. I felt really drawn in by it. And it left me thinking. 

Overall, I think this is a great read, and I would happily read it again, if only to make the most of the plot twist at the end. 

35/38

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