Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January Book Review: History Is All You Left Me

I really liked Adam Silvera's first novel, More Happy Than Not, so I was excited to read History Is All You Left Me as soon as it came out this month, and if anything, I liked it more. It's again a young adult novel but without the sci-fi element of the first; it's the story of a teen boy looking back at his first relationship and subsequent actions after his ex-boyfriend dies in an accident after their breakup.

Except that description makes the book sound boring, and it isn't, at all. It's very emotionally affecting - I highly recommend it, but make sure you read it at a time when you're ready to deal with lots of feelings - but what really got me was the technical excellence of the writing. This isn't a mystery, but main character Griffin is hiding lots of things from the people around him and refusing to think about them himself, and Silvera does a brilliant job of constructing the narrative so that the reader finds out what's going on gradually, as Griffin makes himself confront it and tell others. At one point I thought I knew where things were going, and they sort of went there, but then wound up somewhere completely different but completely perfect; nothing is more satisfying than a plot development that makes me say "WHAT?" but then immediately "Oh, of course."

It's not all about the construction, though - the characters also feel extremely real, from their hobbies and their friendships and relationships to the handling of Griffin's OCD. Silvera does a great job of treating their feelings as real love without implying a permanence that often seems age-inappropriate in YA novels. There were many basically decent-but-not-perfect parents (and a great little sister) who were truly involved in their children's lives and in the plot, which I'd love to see in more YA novels - teens don't live in a vacuum.

And, of course, there were the aforementioned feelings - it's impressive when a novel manages to be heartbreaking and life-affirming at the same time, while not feeling emotionally manipulative. You don't want to miss this one.

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