“People are complicated puzzles, always trying to piece together a complete picture, but sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we’re left unfinished. Sometimes that’s for the best.”
History Is All You Left Me is a YA contemporary novel written by Adam Silvera. It shifts between past and present as our main character, Griffin, comes to terms with the death of his ex-boyfriend and best friend, Theo. The chapters in the past chronicle the beginning of their relationship, while the future chapters deal with Griffin’s reaction to his death and the revelations that follow.
This book did not devastate me as much as I’d thought it would, but I still enjoyed reading it. I’m not huge on YA contemporaries, but this was gritty and managed to hold my interest. I gave it a 3.5 star rating out of 5, and I think it’s worth checking out.
The characters are probably the best part of History Is All You Left Me. Silvera’s cast is incredibly diverse, and all of the main characters are LGBT. I can’t personally speak to the representation, but I think it’s so important that books like this exist – particularly given how hard it was to find just one LGBT main character in YA books only a few years ago. The characters are also flawed in a very human way. You want to hate some of them at times, but as the story unfolds, you realize it’s more complicated than “this person is awful” or “this person didn’t deserve that.” In the end, they’re a bunch of teenagers with mixed up emotions that even they barely understand. It’s refreshingly relatable.
The alternating perspectives work really well, and they succeeded in making my emotions as inconsistent as the characters’. The past narrative is adorable and had me rooting for relationships that the future perspective forced me to question and dislike. The back and forth also allows details of the story to be slowly revealed over time, which keeps things interesting. I also love how prominent puzzles are throughout the book – because the book is just another puzzle that the reader puts together simply by reading it.
It’s also abundantly clear that Adam Silvera is a fellow nerd. The characters make so many Star Wars and Harry Potter references throughout the story. Come to think of it, that’s probably a huge part of why I liked them all so much…
The writing itself is, in my opinion, better than that of most YA fiction. The dialogue could have used work in certain places. Sometimes phrases felt forced, like they were thrown in just to show the characters were young and from New York. I’m from New York too, so I know how much we all love to use “mad” as an adjective. But in certain scenes, things like this didn’t feel natural. Theo’s funeral is an example that stands out in my mind.
The book ends without everything being fully resolved, which seems fitting for a novel centered around a death. It’s realistic, especially considering how messy the characters’ feelings are even before Theo dies. Adam Silvera strikes a nice balance between sorrowful and hopeful.
What did you guys think of History Is All You Left Me? Let me know in the comments below!