Book Review: History Is All You Left Me, Adam Silvera (2017)

Monday, January 16th, 2017

“history is how we get to keep him.”

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss.)

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.

I’m a seventeen-year-old grieving his favorite person.

We first meet Griffin Jennings on Monday, November 20th, 2016. It’s been exactly one week since his best friend and ex-boyfriend Theo McIntyre died: drowned in the Pacific Ocean while his new love, Jackson Wright, watched helplessly from the shore. Now Theo’s East Coast/West Coast lives are about to collide – over his casket, no less – as Jackson and Griffin meet for the first time at his funeral. Only things don’t play out exactly how you’d think.

Theo was most of Griffin’s firsts: first date, first kiss, first time, first love. Childhood friends, they came out to each on the L train; weeks later, they came out to their parents, together. (This was a happy scene, the sort of which all LGBTQ kids deserve.) Griffin always knew that he’d have to say goodbye to Theo, who’s one year older/ahead of him in high school – but his early admission to the animation program at Santa Monica College sure upended the timeline. Griff broke up with Theo the day before he left, thinking he’d spare himself the pain of eventually becoming the dumpee – and, just two months later, Theo began seeing Jackson. Drama, heartbreak, passive-aggressive sniping, and betrayal ensue.

We’ve all been there before. Except Theo ups and dies before any of it can be resolved, and Griffin and Jackson (not to mention Wade, the third member of the Manhattan squad) are left to sort through the detritus of a life too shortly lived.

To complicate matters further, Griffin suffers from OCD – mostly manifested in directions (left is good) and numbers (odd is bad) – which is getting progressively worse in Theo’s absence and death.

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Every Last Word, Tamara Ireland Stone (2015)

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Crazy Again Today

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for depression, anxiety, self-harming behaviors, and suicide.

Review title pulled from the lyrics of Fiona Apple’s “Paper Bag,” which was a staple on my college-era depression playlists. It’ll click once you read the book, okay.)

Then I see the walls.

I spin a slow three-sixty in place, taking it all in. All four walls are covered with scraps of paper in different colors and shapes and textures, all jutting out at various angles. Lined paper ripped from spiral-bound notebooks. Plain paper, threehole punched. Graph paper, torn at the edges. Pages that have yellowed with age, along with napkins and Post-its and brown paper lunch bags and even a few candy wrappers.

Caroline’s watching me, and I take a few cautious steps closer to get a better look. I reach for one of the pages, running the corner between my thumb and forefinger, and that’s when I notice handwriting on each one, as distinctive as the paper itself. Loopy, flowing cursive. Tight, angular letters. Precise, blocky printing.

Wow.

Sixteen-year-old Samantha McAllister is dreading the start of junior year – and with it, the disappearance of “Summer Sam,” the better, braver, happier version of herself. It’s not that she’s ostracized or unpopular; just the opposite, in fact. She’s been best friends with Kaitlyn, Alexis, Olivia, and Hailey since kindergarten; collectively, they are known as the Crazy Eights (they’ve lost a few members over the years), THE “it girls” in school.

While these lifelong friends should provide Sam with some measure of support and stability, they’re just as likely to send her into an “Eights-induced thought spiral.” Led by head “Mean Girl” Kaitlyn, the clique is quick to pick apart each other’s hair, makeup, cloths, nicknames, taste in guys, you name it. So it’s no wonder that Sam hides her “crazy” from them. Imagine what they’d say if they knew that she’s suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) her whole life, and that her level of dysfunction is such that she’s been taking anti-anxiety meds and sleeping pills and seeing a psychiatrist once a week for the past five years? No thanks.

(More below the fold…)