Published by Simon & Schuster UK on February 9, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Diversity, Contemporary, Own Voices
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You’re still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real world where this morning you’re having an open casket funeral. I know you’re out there, listening. And you should know I’m really pissed because you swore you would never die and yet here we are. It hurts even more because this isn’t the first promise you’ve broken.
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...
Grief is a hard thing to manage, especially when you lose your best friend/kind of boyfriend who you’ve grown up with most of your life. What’s even worse, is that Griffin has to deal with Jackson’s grief, who was Theo’s current boyfriend when he died. Griffin isn’t ready to deal with any of this, but life hits him face on and his OCD compulsions hit hard.
History is All You Left Me is a book that approaches many different diverse topics – OCD, anxiety, gay relationships and unhealthy relationships woven into the past and the present. I really wanted to like it because of the intersectional diversity that was covered, but the characters weren’t very likable at all.
I didn’t immediately warm to Griffin as the main character, which is understandable as he’s dealing with the death of someone he loved. But as the book progressed, I realised that his obsessions, his compulsions, the way he treats the people around him – he’s actually a destructive person who uses the people around him. While it’s refreshing to have a different perspective, someone who isn’t your typical hero, I found him rather unlikable and ended up liking the side characters a lot more.
The story is told through different timelines – the history, where Griffin and Theo share their past together and you find out what lead to Theo’s move to the west coast. There’s also the present day, where a much sadder Griffin copes with the aftermath of Theo’s death. Understandably, Today’s Griffin is angsty, destructive and his OCD is much worse than in the past. He also somehow finds himself getting over his forced dislike of Jackson and finding out what Theo saw in him. With interchangeable timelines, I wanted to know why Theo ended up getting a new boyfriend and what Griffin went through when this occurred. It kept me hooked onto the story and the simultaneous stories really highlighted the relationships between Theo, Griffin and their other best friend Wade.
It’s not often you deal with an intersectional diversity that is woven in so naturally in the story, and I appreciated how Griffin’s OCD manifested in a variety of ways. He only likes people to walk on his left, can only sit in the middle of the car’s back seat and twists his ring finger whenever he’s feeling anxious. Often OCD is something that’s misunderstood, but care and sensitivity is given to his disorder. The people in his life deal with it in a variety of ways – acceptance, understanding, treating it as a cute quirk but others mock and make fun of it.
This is where we give up hope on reversing time, where we abandon finding a cure to death, where we live in this Theo-less universe, where we say goodbye. But I can’t. It is goodbye for most, but not for me. Never me.
While I enjoyed the gay relationships in the book, the OCD and grief and the interchanging timeframes, I wasn’t a fan of the resolution of the book. I felt like it was rushed, and the plot twist kind of felt convenient. I also wasn’t a fan of Griffin as a character which amplified as I kept reading.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia for sending me this book for review.
History is All You Left Me is out now at Aussie bookstores for RRP $17.99.
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