History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Published January 17, 2017
History Is All You Left Me is a moving portrait of love and loss, as Griffin Jennings deals with the loss of his first love, ex-boyfriend Theo, in a drowning accident. The novel unfolds in alternating chapters. “History” explores the past from the moment where Theo and Griffin become romantically involved, through their preemptive break-up as Theo moves across the country to attend college, to Griffin’s jealousy as Theo embarks on a relationship with a new man, Jackson. “Today” begins with Theo’s funeral and the aftermath of his death.
I enjoyed History Is All You Left Me, but I wasn’t head over heels for it. Honestly, I think I was spoiled by Silvera’s previous novel, More Happy Than Not, which I found enthralling. With More Happy Than Not I was reading Silvera for the first time so I went in without expectations and wound up loving the effective, snappy, yet eloquently moving prose, but I also was completely surprised by the twist (I hadn’t seen the comparisons to a certain movie that would have given it away), and I found that I liked the main character, as well as his girlfriend, and sympathized with them both.
The prose I so admired is still in existence with History Is All You Left Me, and I liked the timely pop culture references. Silvera does a good job of portraying the depth and intensity of loss, and even how individuals deal with grief differently, through Theo’s parents and friends. Now that I am familiar with Silvera’s work though, I found myself waiting for a twist. Although I didn’t puzzle it all out, I expected something and wasn’t quite as caught off guard as I had been with More Happy Than Not.
I also found that while I did sympathize with Griffin (and Jackson) and the situation he’s in, and even found his choices understandable, I didn’t really like the character very much. Griffin is certainly a realistic and three-dimensional character, and I found the push and pull between Griffin’s selflessness in pretending he’s fine with Theo moving on when the reality is he’s devastated, and his selfishness in (admittedly unintentionally) using other characters to suit his needs interesting, but also a little off-putting and I never fully connected with him as a character.
Despite not connecting with Griffin, there are aspects of this novel that are wonderful. I loved the fact that this novel is a queer romance without any homophobia in sight. Theo and Griffin’s parents are all supportive of their relationship, as are their friends, and there is no angst about sexual orientation. In fact, this book has some wonderful parental figures in general, and it makes a nice change to see such positive portrayals of family life (with the sole exception of Jackson’s father). I also liked the early “history” chapters featuring Griffin and Theo’s relationship and felt that they were a believable couple with chemistry, making it easier for me to understand Griffin’s jealousy and sorrow at losing his ex first to Jackson and then to death.
Ultimately, History Is All You Left Me is definitely worth reading and is a strong effort from Adam Silvera, I just didn’t find it as crushing and emotional as many other readers did, going by goodreads reviews.