History Is All You Left Me is a heartbreaking YA novel about love, loss, and finding yourself. The amount of emotions you’ll experience while reading this book is eye-opening. Even if you’ve never felt grief yourself, you’ll feel it along with the characters is this novel. The fact that this book is so emotional is what makes it so compelling. I felt myself getting attached to and invested in the characters, feeling their pain along with them. I’ve never been so sad after reading a book, but I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed this compelling read.
The novel starts with Griffin getting ready to go to a funeral. What makes this scenario even more upsetting for readers and especially Griffin himself is that it’s the funeral of his ex-boyfriend and the love of his life, Theo.
Theo, Griffin, and Wade have been best friends since they were in middle school. Before Theo and Griffin fell in love, the three boys were known as “the squad,” doing anything and everything together. Who would’ve thought that they would be reunited years later at a funeral? As they grew up and made their way through high school, Theo decided he was going to move away for college. In order to save each other the heartbreak of a long distance relationship, they broke up. Even though they had been apart for more than a year and Theo had started to date Jackson, the two were still thinking of each other. Griffin especially was still attached to the relationship, thinking that Theo would come back to him eventually. This option was soon proven to be out of the question when Theo drowned.
The story is told from Griffin’s perspective as he switches back and forth between the past and the present. The way he tells his story is epistolary–that is, in a letter-like format–writing to his lost love. I’ve come to notice that this choice was made because it’s almost like Griffin believes Theo will hear all these words, that he is still with Griffin, watching over him even after death. Since he continues to switch between stories from the past and present, small details are filled in more slowly as you read on, which makes this read even more compelling.
As more and more facts are filled in throughout the story, we start to learn that Griffin really isn’t doing well after the loss of his first love. In the present story, we experience his grief with him, and in the past story we learn why his grief is so hard to deal with. Griffin felt “like a rock being skipped through the ocean—pain, relief, pain again, relief again, eventually destined to sink.” Theo’s death has had more of an effect on him than we thought, and he’s starting to fall apart. We learn early on that Griffin has OCD tendencies that only get worse throughout the book. He likes even numbers. When Theo says, “Give us ten minutes, fifteen if they want to take pictures,” Griffin doesn’t like odd numbers: “In my head I correct it to sixteen minutes but I keep that to myself.” Griffin is an incredibly complex character suffering from a plethora of mental health issues–he goes on a downward spiral suffering with OCD and depression after Theo’s death–but nonetheless he is very likeable and relatable; in fact, his mental health struggles may make him more relatable because these are issues which many people can relate to dealing with.
Silvera’s writing style is wonderful and unique. He effortlessly writes with the mentality of a grieving teenager, yet he puts his own twist on the story, using words that most teenagers would never use. He incorporates phrases like, “ I picture each word as a fearless skydiver. An assembly of brave words just dove out of the clouds and landed in my bed.” Silvera brings awareness to the topics of mental health and grief, the LGBTQ+ community and safe sex. I appreciate how Adam didn’t romanticise Griffin’s OCD but rather portrayed it realistically. The heartbreaking novel will pull at your emotions with every turn of a page with beautifully-written words and a realistically-tragic plot. I loved reading this novel very much, and I’m sure everyone else who has read it would agree.