Griffin Jenkins is a gay New York teen and back in 2014, he began to date his long-best-friend, Theo. It was them and their buff friend Wade who made a trio that always stuck together. But after Theo got accepted to a university in California for a course he’s dreamed of for years, he and Griffin have to split, and they’re both not sure if they’ll ever get back together after he’s done his education. It’s tough, not just because a long-distance relationship isn’t something they can handle but Theo gets a new boyfriend, Jackson. The reason this isn’t spoilers is because the book jumps timelines repeatedly, from the time Griffin and Theo first started imagining a happily ever after of Harry Potter, Star Wars and jigsaw puzzles, to when it’s revealed Theo ended up drowning in the Pacific Ocean, and Griffin’s dream is shattered and he’s not sure if he’ll ever be able to be okay ever again. Then he meets the one boy he told himself he would and should forever loathe; the one boy where he can still be himself and talk things through properly.
At first, I had low expectations, which sounds strange even to me. Why would I expect to not like a book like this? Well, for starters, I was worried that because it would be mainly about grieving a loss that every sentence would be about that and therefore the same, spoon-fed to us too much. Also, near the beginning of the book is Theo’s funeral, and Jackson and Griffin both openly express at the church where he’s celebrated how he was their boyfriend and they both loved him. Also, Griffin and Theo earlier on come out to their parents at a party and say they’re dating and it goes as smoothly as soap down a showering back. The deal about that is the gay factor of the book was depicted as perfectly normal; there are no rotten comments in a church or in the family, but I found that unrealistic. LGBT rights have grown so humongously in the last few years and I’m so proud of the world. Just, there are people, especially older ones who have grown up and stick with the past majority opinion that homophobia is a good thing. In Canada where I live it’s less so, but in the U.S., there are people everywhere, even a big percentage, who still won’t take homosexual couples or peoples with acceptance. Also, I’ve never heard of a coming out story that goes as simple as this one. Even the most accepting family in the world will always have some stuff to think about after their son or daughter comes out. With its inability to display these things, as well as not explaining how any of these characters first realized they were gay, I was worried I was going to end up highly not recommending this. After the first 80 pages, I thought that was going to be my whole review. But as the stories of the past relationship and post-relationship intertwine, there’s an undeniable relatability that, by being kind of slow, allows us to feel sorry for these boys without making it feel like we’re forced to, and even though it shouldn’t work...Adam Silvera puts together the cataclysm with the raw and frightened power of really losing someone. This seems like a story he really wanted to tell, not something that he felt would sell big copies at festivals and shops.
I’ve lost some people I will forever love, and I’ve heartbreaks before. This book brought the sad reminders back into my mind, only I’ve never had a friend who died as young as Theo did. Hell, he’s only ten months older than me, and we were both born in 1998. And November 13 is not only the day the Paris attacks happened in 2015, but it’s the day after my birthday. After the day I turned 18, and a year after those attacks, another 18-year-old drowned...You see what I’m saying? As the days through the History chapters get more and more recent, knowing how many days Theo had left hurt me more and more. It’s odd reading about a tragedy book where you not only know the outcome, but the author allows you to know it too.
Adam Silvera also made another big gamble. Forget New York City. This is Lottery City. A lot of folks will say that if you have an unhealthy relationship, or your partner makes a cruel decision, you should break up with them, move on, and not think twice of it. But sometimes it’s not that simple. At all. Sometimes people can’t help but still have feelings for the jerk and hold on, hoping the future they envisioned together is still within reach somehow. When there are justifiable reasons for breaking up and you didn’t break up hating each other, it’s even harder. This sort of thing is so easy to mess up, potentially turning the protagonist into a crybaby like Luce from Fallen who can’t see there’s more to this world than getting the guy. But because Theo and Griffin clearly make the other very happy, and neither person wanted to break up but the circumstances got out of hand, Griffin not being able to get over it is tolerable to read about.
I also enjoyed how the characters make decisions they regret later, and not only do they somehow in the moment know they’ll regret it but they feel they can’t help themselves considering the trauma they’re going through and they are able to apologize and back up without the other person being stubborn and not understanding. For the most part. Most books have a character mess up once or twice and that’s that. Not this time. It’s an accurate depiction of depressed drunkards without the drunk part, and sometimes people drinking booze can be more exciting than gunfire and opaque smoke.
History is All You Left Me is a sad book that ends up having a lot of hammered-on sadness, but thanks to the healthiness, realism and heart of the relationship, the large grieving does not feel exhausting, and even if I had problems with it at the beginning, it nonetheless makes you sit down and think either about how happy your partner makes you or how happy you want to be.