This book broke me in the best of ways. I can't count how many times this book made me tear up and days after finishing, it still sits with me. Partially, this might be due to HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME being in many ways a reflection of what I went through when I lost my best childhood friend to a car accident at 18. Although this happened more than 11 years ago now, so much in this book brought me back, from that very first scene of Griffin's refusal to go see Theo at his open casket funeral to the way he keeps talking to Theo as if he was still around and could answer his many questions at any moment. HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME definitely was a book that hit me on a very personal level, but that's not all that made it work for me. Some might comment on how its pace is often slow and how this is a book that, while split into dual timelines of history and now, is very much steeped in the past. This, and Silvera telling Griffin and Theo's story predominantly from a second person point of view made this book a unique experience and drew readers even more closely into Griffin's grief.
It is incredibly challenging to build tension and reader sympathy when the ending already is a foregone conclusion--or so it seems. It turns out that there is much more to Griffin's story than Theo's death. This is a story about friendship, love and loss, family and mental illness. What I loved most about HISTORY is that it completely skips any platitudes. Instead, it is often painfully honest, complicated, and oh, so very messy in its treatment of grief and all the character relationships entangled in it.
Speaking of character relationships, there are so many of them to root for, no matter what we already know about the ending. And in a way very much reminiscent of Silvera's debut, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT, there always are unforeseen twists woven into the narratives that kept me turning pages and left me unable to put this book down.
A special shoutout goes to the overall good representation of both LGBT issues and mental illness. I loved how coming out hardly was an issue in this book and I couldn't help but love both Griffin and Theo's friends and family for the way they supported both of them. Also, despite all of its sadness, this book contained one of the funniest condom-buying scenes I have ever read. I'm still smiling just thinking about it. Loved that part.
When it comes to mental illness rep, I loved the way Silvera portrayed Griffin's OCD as such an integral part of who he was. I loved how it was part of both Griffin's character and the plot--this story wouldn't be the same without it and I loved the nuanced approach Silvera took in describing how Griffin, his family, and his friends all respond to it. I want more books with this kind of intersectionality, please.
Overall, HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME was a book about relationships. Not just romantic relationships, either, but I loved how both Griffin and Theo's families were such an integral part of what made this story work. All relationships in this book are complex, messy, and ultimately real, which is why this book and its character will probably stick with me for a long time to come.
So far, HISTORY IS ALL YOU LEFT ME definitely is my favorite read of 2017. While the year is still new, I anticipate this one to keep its place among my favorites for a while. So, go read it and come discuss your thoughts with me!
Cheers and happy reading!