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.

Review: Love, Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life

I received an ARC of the book Dear Henri: Letters on the Spiritual Life by Henri Nouwen from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
When I saw that this book was being offered, I was thrilled. I have read The Inner Voice of Love, and I loved the powerful way that book impacted me.

While Henri Nouwen died in September 1996, this new book offers a reader new insight into Nouwen, both into his personal life as well as into his mind and words of wisdom and understanding. This new book is a collection of letters that Henri Nouwen sent people over a span of many years. With each letter, we are not able to see what was originally written, but we are given a summary of who each person is and why they wrote to Nouwen.

This book, much like The Inner Voice of Love, is best read in small dosages. The information in the letters does pack a powerful spiritual punch. However, it is the case where if you try to read too much at once, it becomes exhausting. I felt that it was sometimes hard to persevere through the whole book with the timeline that I had for the review. It’s a book best read over several weeks and perhaps months.

This book also nearly serves as an autobiography told through letters as we learn much of the years that Nouwen spent in ministry, the various places he served, what some of the inner conflict he felt actually was in specific terms, and how he came to a place of living his pain well.

If you have ever read and enjoyed a Nouwen book, this book is for you. Again, please read it slowly. It’ll be better that way.

Review: Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

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“You love someone and they leave, but they never entirely go away. You feel them there, acutely, like an amputated limb.” —Paula Garner

On September 17, 2016, I had the opportunity to attend a free book launch for Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner. While there, the author described her book by saying, “really it’s about grief.”

How accurate that is.

The story begins about 3.5 years after the death of Otis’s younger brother Mason. While the reader does not know all of the details, the effects of the death are ingrained in Otis’s life.

Otis is a high school swimmer who is pretty good at what he does. His friend Dara has high ambitions for him and creates a rigorous training plan for him in order to launch him to Olympic-level swimming. However, this is not something that Otis necessarily wants but rather perhaps a dead dream of Dara for herself whose swimming career was hampered by the loss of her arm.

Very early into the story, Meg is also introduced. She was best friends with Otis when Mason died, and at that point in time, they were beginning to explore a romantic relationship. After Mason’s death, Meg and her family move away. Now, Meg is coming back for 3 weeks, and Otis must deal with what this means.

What follows is a beautiful tale that admits that grief never ends. It  is there always, an undercurrent to the rest of your life. While there may be days where things may seem to be perfect again or close to perfect, there is ultimately always this missing piece. Sometimes, the pain comes back sharply like the pain some amputees feel from the limb that is no longer there.

18 months ago, I watched my 10 week old nephew die in the PICU at a hospital. It was a completely unexpected and traumatic event. I spent many nights unable to sleep, replaying the events of that day and the week prior. While his death was due to a previously undetected brain tumor, I still felt guilt over his death. I still do in some ways. Often times in fiction books—both with young adult books and adult fiction books, grief seems to have an end point. It seems to come to a point where everything looks bright, shiny, and beautiful again by the end with time.

This book, however, is different. We see how Otis, Meg, and Dara all continue to be impacted by traumatic losses in their past. We see how easy it can be to play the “if only” game to try change the past because the present seems so tainted. For anyone dealing with grief, especially traumatic grief, this book is a painfully beautiful gift. It acknowledges that grief doesn’t always end, but it is also hopeful that the present can still be lived.

Additionally, Garner includes therapists and support groups for grief in this book. While this is something that is written only at a mention, the very fact that both are mentioned and that various characters go to these is ALWAYS a huge deal to include in fiction, especially young adult fiction.

Stunning debut.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars