“Alternate universe idea: Theo and I are living together in a huge house overflowing with hats because I bought him a new one every day to get him to stay.”
History Is All You Left Me is a contemporary young adult novel told from the point of view of Griffin as he grieves for the loss of his ex-boyfriend and best friend, Theo. The story alternates between snapshots of Griffin’s life before Theo’s death and the present, in which Griffin forges an unusual bond with the boy who he previously deemed to be his rival – Theo’s college boyfriend, Jackson.
This was a moving, sweet and wonderfully written novel. I love the way Silvera writes, the way I was laughing one moment, then feeling my heart wrenched out of my chest the next. I also liked how the plot wasn’t predictable: throughout the novel, I found hints that something was being left out, that there was more to the story than what I was reading, so there were still mysteries to be uncovered towards the end of the novel.
“Every universe I’ve created lately, your face keeps popping up in it.”
Another thing I really liked about this story were the characters. Surprisingly for a relatively short novel (around 300 pages), I felt like I really got to know each character’s personality. I liked the dynamic between Theo and Griffin, and how they interacted with each other, and particularly enjoyed reading about how their relationship began. It was sweet and romantic, and most of all, Theo and Griffin felt like real people.
The relationship between Griffin and Jackson – two boys who have both loved and lost the same person – was another highlight. This was a really unusual dynamic that we don’t often get to see in fiction. Quite often in YA, two characters might be rivals for the affections of the same person, but rarely is this depicted as anything more than a rivalry. In History Is All You Left Me, this relationship is far, far more complex.
“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.”
One of the unique features of this book is that it features a character with a mental health condition: Griffin has OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), and we see throughout the book how his loss affects this, and how it works its way into different aspects of his life. Silvera does a great job of making OCD a part of Griffin’s story without making it his sole defining characteristic.
Contemporary YA isn’t always a genre I get on well with. I too often find it slow, or unexciting, or cliched, but History Is All You Left Me was none of these things. It kept me interested throughout, and it felt raw, real, and relatable. The final 100 pages of the book were so perfect that I couldn’t sleep until I finished them, and stayed awake until 2am before I was able to put it down.
This was such an emotional and unique coming-of-age story featuring a cast of diverse characters, and I really loved it. This has easily made its way onto my list of favourite contemporary young adult novels.