History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

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Adam Silvera’s History is All You Left Me is a moving and accurate portrayal of losing someone.

History begins the day of Theo’s funeral. Theo has died unexpectedly in a drowning accident, and this leaves his ex-boyfriend Griffin in complete despair. Although Theo and Griffin had been broken up for over a year, Griffin had always believed that he and Theo would end up together in the end.

What truly amazes me is that Silvera has said that he has never lost someone to the scale that it is represented in this book. (See here.) It is amazing because Silvera truly writes the grief very well. While each person is unique in their grieving process, Griffin’s grieving process reads so, so well.

Grief is a non-linear process. There is never a point where you stop missing the person that you have lost. There are times where happiness can easily be had.There are times where it is easier to stay in bed all day rather than to try to function as a human with grief. There are times when it is easier to stay at home rather than attempt to go to school or to work. There are times where it is easier to try to push away the grief, and in the process of pushing away the grief, you hurt people that you truly do care about.

Silvera writes all of this well. While I have not lost a boyfriend, I have directly witnessed two family members die very unexpectedly (one with 71 days of history, one with 76 years of history). I have also had friends die (one killed in Afghanistan, one by an unexpected medical event).

I know what is like to both linger in the history of those people and to linger in an alternative universe where the individual is still alive and I had more time to make amends or simply spend more time with them.

Quite frankly, even without having experienced the type of traumatic grief that he writes about, Silvera writes it so well.

Silvera also greatly balances the tragedy of Theo’s death with the history of Griffin and Theo coming together and the eventual loss of the relationship. These chapters, interspersed with the present day chapters, provide some necessary lightness to allow the reader to continue to deal with the heaviness of the other chapters. It is no easy task for a reader to be drawn into someone else’s grief, and so these history chapters should provide a welcome mind relief for the readers. Silvera also writes the history chapters very well.

In addition to the grief and the relationship between Theo and Griffin, Silvera also writes about Griffin’s compulsions as he believes (and later has it confirmed) that he has OCD. In writing this, Silvera does bring into the story his own personal compulsions. Silvera also writes into the story two completely opposite reactions to Griffin’s compulsions. One character believes they are simply quirks but is accepting of them while another character realizes that they are compulsions (medically related) and accepts them. I’m glad that Silvera included both reactions because both are completely realistic reactions. As the reader reads further into this story, the reader should realize that Griffin’s compulsions are not simply “quirks” but rather OCD. This is not something that is forced into the story but is rather a part of Griffin. I know that some readers may not understand that, and while I do wish that Silvera had explored this more, ultimately, this is a part of Griffin and not the main focus of the story which I understand.

Amazon link:History is All You Left Me

 

 

A Review of Adam Silvera?

I attended Adam Silvera’s book signing for his new book History is All You Left Me at Anderson’s Bookshop in La Grange, IL.

But this isn’t an event recap.

To be honest, this event was only 8 days ago, and I don’t remember ANYTHING that Adam talked about during the Q&A style format. I know Harry Potter was mentioned, but I seriously don’t remember anything.

I suffer from depression and anxiety. Within the past couple of weeks, my depression intensified greatly. I started losing all motivation to get out of bed. Then, my anxiety intensified.

The day of the Silvera event, I left for the event really early because my anxiety was starting to really amp up, and when that happens, I need to be in the general proximity of where an event is going to be held even if I’m 3 hours early. As I was going there, however, I also felt a strong desire to go back home instead.

My anxiety just kept increasing. By the time Adam was talking, I was in pre-panic attack mode. I thought I could stay in the moment. I even at one point tried to ask a question, but someone else got called on instead. I tried to stay in that moment and just let that go, but that is the exact moment that my mind lost it. As Adam answered that last question, all I could think was, “I need to leave right now. I need to leave right now. I need to leave. But if I run out now, being in the front row, I can’t come back. I need to leave. I need to leave. I shouldn’t have come. I need to leave.”

They started lining up the numbers, and I had the first number. However, I couldn’t do it. I left my book and coat behind, and I quickly left the store. I walked out into the rain, and as the rain poured over me, tears flooded my eyes. I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t slow down my breathing. I almost crumpled over against a random building because I couldn’t deal with this panic attack anymore.

After some time, I did go back, and I sat on my phone for several minutes, trying to calm myself back down further, before finally joining the very back of Adam’s signing line.

Let me tell you this.

Adam Silvera is one of best humans.

Adam remembers me from our past meetings and our interactions from Twitter. He also knew that I had been struggling. He also had just learned that I put his book down that day (and I still haven’t picked it back up) after I couldn’t handle it. (I attended a funeral for an 18 year old two days after this signing—the book includes a funeral at the very beginning of the book.)

Even though I knew that Adam was absolutely exhausted, he poured himself into me for about 5 minutes. He greeted me with a huge hug, and in that hug, he asked me how I was. When I couldn’t answer that question, he kept hugging, and he asked again, making it extremely clear that he was asking for a real question. I admitted how much I had been struggling. I admitted that I had had a panic attack during his event. (He admitted to figuring that something was wrong during that.)  He asked me about the 18 year old. When he signed my copy of History is All You Left Me, he wrote me the longest book inscription that I have ever seen in my life. He assured me that there is no pressure to ever finish his book if I cannot handle it. As we said goodbye, he hugged me twice more.

Adam Silvera is just a genuinely good person. He is the type of author that is needed in the YA world. Additionally, Adam being unflinchingly honest with his own struggles with mental health allowed me to be honest with him about mine. While I’m pretty open about it in certain areas, I’ve met some people quite unkind about it. Adam, however, is just a good and caring person. I’m glad the YA world can claim him as he is a needed person and a  needed voice and a needed author.

The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt

Told through two perspectives, The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt is an absolute gem.

We first meet Gretchen. Several months ago, Gretchen went through a very traumatic experience when she was attacked. This event completely altered the direction of her life. She had to start being home schooled and had difficulties going to other places. She tried medication, but it left her feeling more zombie-like than anything, and her parents disagreed on the effectiveness of psychologists which left her without any mental health professional to talk with about this situation.

We then meet Phoenix. Phoenix is an asylum seeker from El Salvador. Coming to the United States to escape a violent situation at home in El Salvador, he has been taken in by two married women in Atlanta, Georgia while he seeks asylum. He worries about his brother who has also come to the U.S., but they have been separated by the U.S. government.

On the day that their lives intersect, Gretchen sees him and experiences a flashback which leads to a panic attack.

Over the next several chapters, they actually meet and begin to become friends. Of course, their friendship is complicated because of a variety of factors–a boyfriend for Gretchen, Gretchen’s anxiety and past trauma, Phoenix’s asylum seeking situation, and the past that Phoenix is hiding.

Over the course of this book, I fell in love with both characters and was rooting for both of them the whole entire time.

I want to point out a few things. At first glance, it may seem that this book was going to treat Gretchen becoming friends with Phoenix as the cure for her mental health issues. This is NOT the case. People can certainly help other people, but a person is not capable of curing a mental illness. The reason why their friendship works so well is that Phoenix helps but never attempts to “fix” Gretchen. There is a huge difference there, and it is written very well.

I also loved that Marquardt wrote about the real situation within El Salvador. El Salvador has been in a gang war for many years. At one point, the daily murders decreased for a while because of a truce in 2012 between the two main gangs. However, this truce fell apart in 2014 for a variety of reasons. As such, El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in the world While Phoenix and Ari are fictional victims of this gang violence (and their story does show the real power that the gangs have in El Salvador) and the story is fictional, they do represent real victims of this gang situation and violence. From the acknowledgment section, it seems that the author worked with Salvadorans directly impacted as a result of the situation.

I definitely recommend this.

Final rating: 4.5/5

Amazon link: The Radius of Us