I want to crawl in a whole and hide my emotions from the world…
When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.
To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life. -goodreads.com summary
I feel the need to start this review by saying this might be one of the most personal posts I’ve written. History is All You Left Me, hit on a lot of themes really personal to me so I don’t feel I can write a proper review without giving my personal experiences. Triger Warning for OCD and death (grief/loss).
NOTE: There will be mild spoilers in this review, but nothing that would really affect your reading experience unless you wanted to go into the novel blind (in which case, only read the “In Short” section. Thanks 🙂
This book was outstanding! I went in knowing it would be a rough read full of tears, but nothing could’ve prepared me for all of the emotions this novel put me through. The themes of love, loss, grief, and mental health are ones we really need to discuss more. These things can seem taboo, but they shouldn’t be. Everyone goes through these states of mind at one part of their life and it should be something people know they can discuss. History is All You Left Me, tells a heartbreaking story of characters coming back from the loss of their close friend. It showcases the impact friends and family can have on your healing and the importance of having someone to stand by you in tough times. History is All You Left Me, is by no means the happiest book you’ll ever read, but it’s one you should read.
OCD: I’m so glad Adam Silvera included the detail of Griffin’s OCD. It makes me even happier knowing this part of Griffin’s personality was based on Adam’s personal experience because it shows strength to be able to write something so personal, but also because it made things seem more real.
Back in middle school (around seventh grade) I started to develop anxiety. Slowly I started to develop nervous habits and routines that I just couldn’t feel comfortable without performing. I preferred odd numbers (except five for whatever reason) and I hated things being placed on cracks. If I touched something two times instead of one, I would go out of my way to touch it a third time, just so I felt better about myself. I had this absurd thought in my head that, if I didn’t make everything odd numbers, something bad would happen. I knew it was stupid but it didn’t stop this habit from developing until a few other people started noticing (who just thought I was weird because I never told anyone why I was doing it… How am I supposed to explain how I feel the world will end if I don’t touch something three times, or move that drink off the crack in the counter)
At the time, I never thought this could be OCD. I always associated OCD with being overly organized (which I am not), little did I know it was more about habits, repetition, and patterns. As I read up on OCD I realized that how my mindset wasn’t the healthiest. I still never told anyone (at least not in a serious conversation) but I’ve worked on it. I still don’t like things on cracks, I get paranoid and check to make sure the door is locked or the oven is off multiple times throughout the day, sometimes I’ll retrace my steps because it just didn’t feel right the first time. But, overall, I’ve done better. I can live with only touching something twice and I know the world won’t end by me putting a plate on a crack.
Thank you to Adam Silvera to including something so personal as OCD. It’s not a thing that is mentioned much in YA and is thrown around in today’s society like it’s just “being organized”. I love how it wasn’t just a one-time part of Griffin’s personality that got forgotten hallway through the book. Instead, you kept mentioning it, thinking how Griffin would react in different situations due to his OCD. Showing Theo and Jackson respecting his compulsions and attempting to minimize his anxiety was perfect, but so was having Wade help him to take control of his life and not let his compulsions dictate everything he does. I could continue on but this is only the first part of the review and this is long enough already XD but once again, thank you.
Griffin’s Grieving: For anyone who doesn’t know, some of the chapters in History is All You Left Me are told as if Griffin is talking to Theo— this is one of my favorite details of the entire novel. Unless you know me personally, you probably don’t know this, but three years ago (my sophomore year of high school) I had a friend die in a car accident. Honestly, were weren’t super close— we talked in the morning before school, but that was mostly it. Once she died, it hit me hard. I guess, to make myself feel better, I begun talking to her in my head, as if she could hear me. I would say goodnight as a part of my night prayers. I’d talk to her before a presentation I was nervous about. And I’d always talk to her before performing with marching band on Friday nights. I knew her because of color guard (her sister was on the team) and it gave me some sense of confidence to imagine she was there helping me get through my performances. This really helped to ease my stage fright before games last year.
It took me until the end of History is All You Left of Me, to realize how similar my habits were to Griffin’s. Unlike Griffin, for me it was more of a religious thing— the idea of, if she was in Heaven, she could be like a guardian angel and help me through hardships. But it’s the same idea of still talking to the person as if they are still here. I guess I’m writing this because Griffin’s grieving process is such a realistic one, and I want to thank Adam Silvera for writing such a realistic character.
Support: I don’t have a strong personal connection to this topic but it’s such an important component to History is All You Left Me, and grieving in general. Seeing Jackson and Griffin grow in friendship, bonding over their past experiences with Theo was… perfect. I don’t have words to describe how happy it makes me feel to see characters come together like this. Their growing friendship is not without bumps (making it more realistic in my opinion) and they both still carry a lot of baggage. They blame themselves but they are there for each other to rely on and help to understand that it isn’t their fault.
Wade and Griffin’s friendship is not something I saw coming, but I love it. I’m happy that these two will be there for each other as Wade helps Griffin to overcome his compulsions and they each grieve in their own way. They both have a lot of things to work out but I think they’re good for each other and I’m glad they’re there to challenge one another and bring out the best in each other.
Guilt: Having guilt for the loss of a loved one is one of the scariest things I can think of. Whether the guilt is warranted or not, I can’t imagine living with the idea that you should’ve done something different for that person. The effects of guilt is shown so well through both Griffin and Jackson as you read on and understand that both of them feel responsible for Theo’s death. I’m glad the two seem to learn to overcome this grief and that it isn’t really their fault. As Theo’s mom pointed out, a lot of people feel they should’ve done something differently for Theo, but there’s no point in dwelling on those thoughts.
Thank you again to Adam Silvera for such a beautiful novel. It has touched me in a way I didn’t even know a novel could. If you’re reading this, know that your work is amazing and I’m sure it has touched many people as it has me. Keep up the amazing work.