OCD-afflicted seventeen-year-old, Griffin, has just lost his first love – his best friend, ex-boyfriend and the boy he believed to be his ultimate life partner – in a drowning accident. In a desperate attempt to hold onto every last piece of the past, a broken Griffin forges a friendship with Theo’s new college boyfriend, Jackson. And Griffin will stop at nothing to learn every detail of Theo’s new college life, and ultimate death. But as the grieving pair grows closer, readers will question Griffin’s own version of the truth – both in terms of what he’s willing to hide, and what true love ultimately means…
History is All You Left Me is unlike any book I’ve ever read before in more ways than one, but the reason that stands out most to me and why this book has left an indelible mark on my heart is because of how the narrative is told from two different time periods — “History” and “Today”. Through learning about our protagonist, Griffin, and his past, we are able to see the person he was before and who he is now, as a result of the events that have moulded and shaped him. But what I loved was how these “History” chapters weren’t just backstory or retelling about his past. I fell into both sides of the narrative through the alternating chapters and adored getting to know Griffin and the people in his life in such a unique, non-linear way. It’s undeniable that Adam Silvera would have written a fantastic novel regardless of the way he formatted the story, but the “History” and “Today” elements made it absolutely spectacular.
Silvera’s novel begins with the heartbreakingly devastating “Today” chapter that shows Griffin, our protagonist, to be attending the funeral of his ex-boyfriend. Because of the superb way in which readers are dropped into the story and immediately immersed in Griffin’s world and enveloped by his grief, we aren’t told everything that lead up to this moment in time. All is revealed gradually in the “History” chapters, but just because I didn’t know the circumstances that lead up to the death discussed in the first chapter, that doesn’t mean I was any less impacted. History is All You Left Me had me crying by the second page, and I don’t think the tears stopped flowing until I’d closed the final page. This novel was just so heartbreakingly glorious.
The romance is one of the biggest parts in this book and the thing that serves as the springboard for the rest of the novel, and I adored getting to know Theo, Griffin’s boyfriend, through the “History” chapters. While we were given some insight into what he was like in the “Today” parts, it was nothing compared to really getting to see him and his interactions and his romance with Griffin in the past. I loved seeing them do nerdy stuff together and talk about their lives and where the future would take them. It was also a massive bonus to see that their romance wasn’t a massive taboo like LGBTQIA+ romance is in some novels, and this wasn’t a coming out book. It was just a book with gay characters and bisexual characters and loving and supporting family and friends. Being queer isn’t something that has to be made a big deal of in novels, and Adam Silvera really gets that. Griffin and Theo were just simply adorable.
The Griffin we’re introduced to in the “Today” chapters is broken and depressed, finding solace in being alone and in his room, hiding away from the world and school and still seeing Theo, his dead ex-boyfriend, everywhere and in everything. His heartbreak filled the pages and overflowed into me. Each devastating paragraph seemed to squeeze my heart until it finally shattered into a million pieces as I turned the final page. While Griffin’s “Today” chapters radiate sadness and despair, especially in the beginning, he’s a gorgeous character that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. I also loved how his OCD was explored and the way in which Adam Silvera wrote about this in such a raw and candid manner. It’s always great to see characters with mental health issues or mental illnesses without making that the centre focus of the novel.
History is All You Left Me is the first novel by Adam Silvera I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be my last. Although More Happy Than Not has been on my radar for what feels like years now, I finally bought a copy after finishing History, and I’m already excited for Silvera’s next book, They Both Die at the End. If you’re looking for a novel that weaves together loss and longing in a unique and compelling way that will reduce you to tears, you can’t look past History is All You Left Me.
Have you read History is All You Left Me, or More Happy Than Not? Which one do you prefer? Did you like the formatting of History? What are some of your favourite novels featuring LGBTQIA+ main characters? Let’s discuss!
Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review!