Griffin (who shows signs of having OCD) mourns the sudden loss of ex-boyfriend and first love, Theo. Uncertain but still believing they would have been “end game,” Griffin broke up with Theo who was college bound early. But readers learn via Griffin’s recounting of their history, that among all the happy times, there were also moments of confusion, frustration, and jealousy. While at college, Theo meets Jackson, whom Griffin has come to dislike immediately. But when they both lose the boy they love, they discover that no one else understands them and their grief except each other. They embark on a strange sort of companionship as readers gain insight into the very complex multiple histories of Theo and his relationships with those closest to him.
This was a difficult book for me to rate because there are so many thing I really appreciated about it, but there were some things that bothered me and I’m too stubborn to look past them.
This is a story about grief. Narrator Griffin must somehow come to terms with his first love’s death as well as the imperfection of their relationship while Theo was still alive. Griffin, in a way, is pissed that Theo is dead because he once made Theo promise to not die. But readers will learn that Griffin is also mad with himself for reasons that even Theo wasn’t aware of.
Similar to a narrative non-fiction, he recounts his entire romantic history for you, but of course, these characters aren’t real. The narrative alternates between past and present story lines. The present story line begins on the night before Theo’s funeral and the “history” (past) storyline begins when Theo and Griffin elevate their friendship to a romantic level.
I don’t usually like books that use a time-hop storytelling style because I find that it weakens the development of the plot (if there is one).
I prefer plot-driven stories and History is All You Left Me is definitely character-driven.
While the “history” chapters provide insight into Griffin’s and Theo’s relationship, you have to care enough to want to read them. You have to care that Griffin is hurt, about his past, and whether or not he moves on. Theo is dead. You know this. So you have to care about what he was like when he was alive in order to keep reading. Because Griffin is the narrator, he has the responsibility of making you care and keeping you engaged throughout.
I did have difficulties continuing to read because it’s not easy to care about fictional characters who are already dead. Am I sad about Theo? The situation is sad, but I didn’t know him and he’s not real. So why should he matter to me?
That, I believe, is the purpose of this story.
Silvera is not necessarily trying to convince you his characters are real, but to empathize with them. Through his writing he reminds you that there are people out there who sympathize with Griffin and care about his history. I was not the biggest fan of Griffin, Theo, or Jackson. As is the norm for young adults, they all make some really poor choices, conceal from one another their true feelings (among other things), and are either totally self-deprecating or completely selfish. Regardless, the author writes in a way that led me to self-reflect and consider what I would have been like in their shoes.
Silvera’s voice is honest. It evokes in me similar feelings that John Green’s does without making me feel like a dimwit for not have an existential crisis as a teenager. Silvera doesn’t abuse fancy language to force me into thinking really hard about my existence. He uses genuine prose which naturally mimics the human voice.
Verdict: This is a sad book and it definitely dragged at some points. Though I probably wouldn’t have chosen Griffin or Theo as my best friends, they are memorable and Silvera’s writing is worthy of praise.