Book Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Adam Silvera just has a knack for dragging you wig through the mud with his writing and making you enjoy it. Or at least, he’s dragged mine for the second time with History is All You Left Me. I was a fan of his previous book, More Happy Than Not, and can very happily report that he avoids the sophomore slump. He does so by giving us the story of Griffin, a teenager with extreme OCD, who is burying the love of his life Theo. At the funeral, he runs into Jackson, Theo’s new boyfriend, and the two manage to be drawn together in their grief, trying to put the pieces of their lives back together. In another timeline, we see the development of Griffin and Theo’s relationship, and it’s eventual demise.

Where I think the strengths of Adam’s writing lie are in the characterizations of young people. There is not a character in this story that doesn’t feel fully lived in and jumps off the page, even as he keeps the book solely in Griffin’s POV. In order for fiction books to soar off the page, they need strong characters. What I loved so much about History is All You Left Me is that each character has tangible faults and qualms, which in turn make them stronger. Griffin is a doozy of a protagonist, and we experience him in two timelines, the pre-Theo death TL and the post-Theo death TL, meaning that as we get a deeper exploration of his OCD than we normally would. The amount of detail and heart Adam must have poured into this character is evident on the page as we root for Griffin to be able to move past having to have everything come in even numbers or standing on someone’s side. But this book is all the better for allowing Griffin to not force our sympathy. Griffin is messy, he’s a bit impulsive, and his grief has made him not the nicest person, and I appreciated being able to root for a character without him needing to be 100% perfect.

I think the main problem I had with the book, is a similar complaint I’ve levied against many YA books, is that the ends of them, the third act if you will comes with a moment that drastically impacts the story. However, in coming near the end, these situations and moments are not often given the fullest time to breathe. I think Adam fares better than most within the genre confines, especially with More Happy Than Not. In this book though, I felt that given the non-linear nature of the book that we would be in for some major reveals, and lordt does this book really drag your emotions, but personally I felt like it was a lot for me to comprehend and unpack. This could very well be a personal issue, as I’ve pointed it out before, but in a book that’s so measured in it’s plotting, I felt a bit walloped over the head.

History is All You Left Me arrives on Jan 17, 2017.