Details & Summary:
From the very first sentence, I knew this book was going to be one of my all-time favourites. I can’t put into words how much I love it. For all of you who’re wondering, here it is:
“You’re still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real word, where this
morning you’re having an open-casket funeral.”
I’m sure there are thousands and thousands of opening lines that are objectively better than this one, but this one really gets to me. I’ve tried to pinpoint exactly why that is and, in the end, this is what I’ve come up: I think it’s all the emotions behind the words that make it special.
Just from that one sentence, you can clearly the narrator loves – present tense – this Theo character with all his being but at the same time is consumed by grief and desperation.
For me, that sums up both the narrator of this story, Griffin, and the story itself. There’s no arguing that love, grief, and desperation are at the centre of History is All You Left Me. It’s about Griffin’s love for Theo, but also Wade and Jackson’s. It’s about Griffin’s grief, but also everyone else’s.
That’s the beauty of this book: while Griffin believes he’s alone in his grief and no one could possibly understand it, he learns to share and heal with the help of others.
“There’s nothing wrong with someone saving my life, I’ve realized, especially when I can’t trust myself to get the job done right. People need people. That’s that.”
Does the healing process go smoothly? No, definitely not. Griffin is selfish, insecure, desperate, and reckless in the worst possible ways. He makes plenty of mistakes, but so does Jackson, and so did Theo.
That last part was really important to me. More than halfway through the book, I was a little scared Griffin would never see Theo as a real person who had flaws and made mistakes of his own. And I get it. When you’re grieving someone, you’re bound to push away the bad parts and only remember the good. But that’s not the real person you’re remembering, it’s an idealization you’re unwilling to let go of.
I’m glad Griffin realises Theo was not perfect, which is something he doesn’t consider when he begins to explore Theo’s life away from him in California, where Theo lived with new boyfriend Jackson. To me, the “relationship” between Jackson and Griffin is one of best parts in the novel. It’s really messed up at times, but I don’t think we can expect anything else from two teenage / YA boys who’ve just lost their first love. Their mistakes just make it all feel more realistic–more human.
“I look up, and Jackson’s eyes find mine. For a second, it almost feels like we’re about to race into the hole to join you. Being buried alive has got to be better than whatever comes next.”
And that’s exactly what this book is. It’s realistic. It’s devastating. It’s sad. It’s heartwarming. It’s an accurate account of what it means to come to terms with losing someone you loved very deeply.
It sounds very bleak, but there’s also lots of humour, teenages boys geeking out over popular culture (mainly Harry Potter & Star Wars), and a lot of warmth that comes from reading about first love. It’s also an accurate representation of OCD and a positive one of gay and bisexual teenagers, which is a huge plus.
In short, it’s a book I won’t forget anytime soon and that I’ll be rereading many, many times.
I recommend this to…
Anyone who loves YA (contemporary) fiction.