100-Character Breakdown: An emotional story of grief with elegant writing and well-developed, diverse characters.
Genre: Young adult, LGBTQ, diverse lit
Publisher: Soho Teen (January 2017)
Because Adam Silvera’s debut novel More Happy Than Not is one of my favorite books, I had very high hopes for History Is All You Left Me. Luckily, I wasn’t at all disappointed. His second novel has the emotionally brilliant and elegant writing I’ve come to expect from Silvera.
Before Griffin’s best friend and ex-boyfriend Theo went off to college, he promised Griffin that he’d never die. The two teens, along with their friend Wade, were best friends for many years, but things started to change when Griffin and Theo started dating. Since then, Griffin and Theo have broken up, Griffin and Wade don’t talk anymore, and now Theo is dead. History Is All You Left Me weaves between chapters of Griffin remembering his time with Theo (“History”) and dealing with his loss in the present (“Today”). When Jackson, Theo’s boyfriend, shows up in Manhattan for Theo’s memorial, Griffin quickly realizes that Jackson is the only one who can echo his heartbreak.
Silvera’s depiction of Griffin’s grief is vivid and palpable, and it is only made more powerful by the book’s excellent portrayal of Griffin’s obsessive-compulsive disorder. Each character is wonderfully developed, especially the four boys at the center of the story. Griffin leaps off the page. His narration is heartfelt and heartbreaking. As the story progresses, his arc as a character is believable and well-paced. While his grief is so incredibly deep, he is still an easy character to connect to, and this only makes the story more enthralling.
Like with More Happy Than Not, Silvera doesn’t shy away from addressing issues of diversity and mental illness. While History Is All You Left Me is a compelling story, it is also an important one.